According to the Department of Health and Human Services, seniors throughout the United States lose an estimated $2.6 billion or more annually due to elder financial abuse and exploitation.
It’s important to steer clear of financial abuse by being alert to the signs and knowing who to turn to for help. You can protect yourself by taking these common-sense precautions:
- Never give your Social Security number, account numbers or other personal financial information over the phone unless you initiated the call.
- Don’t open e-mails from unknown sources, and beware of any notice claiming you have won a lottery.
- Shred receipts, bank statements and unused credit card offers before throwing them away.
- Review your monthly accounts regularly for any unauthorized charges. Report lost or stolen checks immediately.
- Order copies of your credit report once a year to ensure accuracy.
- Lock up your checkbook, account statements and other sensitive information when others will be in your home.
- Do business with companies you know are reputable, or first check their references and credentials. Beware of any home improvement contractor that comes to your door or tries to sell you services over the phone.
- If a stranger needs to send you payment for something, insist on a check for the exact amount. Never accept a check for more and wire the difference back.
- Never let someone pressure you into agreeing to loan terms before you’ve had a chance to review them in writing with a trusted advisor.
- Report any unusual account inquiries you receive – whether by phone or e-mail – to your banker, who will take measures to protect your account and notify authorities.
- Carefully choose trustworthy people to act as your agent in all estate-planning matters.
- Talk to your local banker about any financial needs, concerns or questions.