Elder financial abuse impacts millions of Americans
The Ramirezes were victims of elder abuse — which is far more common than you’d think.
In fact, the National Council on Aging reports up to five million older Americans are affected each year, while victims of financial abuse are estimated to lose at least $36.5 billion a year.
And in almost 60% of cases, the perpetrator is a family member — often the adult child or spouse of the victim.
The Ramirezes told FOX26 they’ve since been displaced and their Social Security income isn’t enough to buy a new home or even afford rent.
"They left us with nothing," Ismael said.
Their other son, Ismael Jr., created a GoFundMe fundraiser, which has already received more than 1,400 donations to help the couple.
Here are five ways to avoid being exploited as you get older, or to protect your aging parents from predators.
1. Appoint a power of attorney
A power of attorney (POA) allows an individual to act on your behalf in legal or business matters — and you can appoint this person while you’re in control of your mental faculties.
Appointing a financial POA allows someone to manage your financial affairs, like signing and mailing checks, filing tax returns and managing investments on your behalf. They can have specific and limited powers, or more broad capabilities.
But most importantly, be careful who you select to safeguard your finances, as the Ramirezes learned firsthand. You should only appoint someone you really trust — but you can tell your (trusted) friends and family about your POA so they can look out for you. You could also request that your agent report to another person so that they’re held accountable for any transactions they make on your behalf.
2. Keep track of your credit history
Make sure to always keep a close eye on your financial statements — look for things like suspicious charges you never authorized or new credit cards and loans being opened under your name.
You can even consider getting a credit monitoring service to help you detect these errors.
And if you do notice something suspicious, be sure to notify your bank or credit union about the unauthorized transaction as soon as possible so they can investigate the issue.
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3. Consult a (good) financial adviser
Speaking to a financial adviser about managing your money can be extremely helpful — as long as you’re picking the right one.
To prevent being taken advantage of, you need to do your research. Look into your prospective adviser’s credentials, experience and reviews, and make sure to ask them plenty of questions to assess whether they’re the right fit for you.
4. Watch out for scams
People of all ages fall for scams all the time, but older adults can be especially vulnerable. In 2022, adults over the age of 60 reported 88,262 complaints to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center — amounting to a total loss of $3.1 billion.
These can include cryptocurrency and romance scams, Medicare and health insurance scams and even fraud related to COVID-19.
Make sure to do your research, don’t share any personal information with people you don’t know and stay cautious when anyone shares a “get rich quick” scheme.
5. Write up a living will
Unlike estate planning, a living will or medical directive details how you wish to be cared for and treated in the event that you cannot express these wishes on your own.
A living will is legally binding and can include directions around matters like resuscitation, invasive life-sustaining measures, pain relief, antibiotics and more.
More: Create your will online with Trust & Will
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