With financial abuse of seniors on the rise, the Barrington Area Council on Aging (BACOA) and some area banks are cautioning local residents about scams and recommending ways to protect elderly adults.
“Elder financial abuse and exploitation is unfortunately a growing phenomenon with our aging population,” says Richard Resseguie, Senior Vice President of Northern Trust Bank in Barrington and the Vice President of BACOA’s board of directors. “Seniors are often targeted because they have financial resources and cash.”
Scams are one of the more common forms of elder financial abuse. Barrington Bank and Trust recently had a customer who nearly fell victim to what’s known as the “grandparent scam”.
“An elderly woman came into the bank to withdraw funds from her savings account,” says Senior Vice President Sue Krcik of Barrington Bank and Trust. “She was extremely nervous and inquired how much she had in her accounts. Our teller took the time to calm her down and find out what the woman was trying to accomplish.”
The woman explained she had received a phone call from her grandson who had been picked up for drunk driving and that she needed to wire funds to him. As soon as the teller heard the story, a personal banker explained to the woman that it was a scam and contacted a family member who assured the woman that her grandson was at school and in no danger.
But some of the worst cases of elder financial abuse and exploitation come from within the family. “It’s a well-known fact that the largest portion of financial elder abuse is perpetrated by family members,” says Krcik. “Appointing someone who can be trusted to handle financial transactions is a very important tool.”
Resseguie says there are many instances of financial abuse by friends, neighbors and financial advisors and family members need to play detective by asking lots of questions. “Check bank statements to see if there is a new signer on an account or if there is a lot of transfer activity,” he says. “Or check to see if there is a new brokerage or investment account.”
The National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse said there are other warning signs including:
- Bills that aren’t paid and notices of eviction or discontinued utility services
- Unexplained withdrawals
- Bank statements that stop coming
- Personal property goes missing
- Suspicious signatures on checks or other financial documents
- Strange or implausible explanations about financial transactions by either an older adult or caregiver
- An uptick in mail and credit offers
Prevention is best when it comes to elder financial abuse and the NCPEA recommends the following:
- Hold quick monthly family meetings to go over the elderly person’s finances and send all family members quarterly reports as a checks-and-balances measure.
- Have a financial power of attorney that everyone trusts will pay bills and handle other financial matters.
- If you suspect elder financial abuse, contact the Administration on Aging, the federal agency responsible for upholding the rights and safety of the elderly and their caregivers. The agency, which serves every county in the nation, can get a social worker on the scene quickly. Its website is aoa.gov.
Founded thirty years ago, The Barrington Area Council on Aging exists to promote #AgingBetter, or vibrant, healthy aging through activities, education, and support to adults and caregivers. BACOA serves approximately 1,200 individuals a year and assists the community in the following ways:
Information on housing options or in-home care services * Meals-with-Wheels * Enrollment in Medicare and Medicaid * Counseling on insurance, benefits and Medicare Part D * Support and education groups for seniors and caregivers * Activities and programs for active seniors * A day respite program for older adults * Educational programs and services for the community on issues related to aging
To see how BACOA embraces their mission daily, search #AgingBetter for their social media updates via Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest and find more information about their programs at BACOA.org.