Financial abuse of elders is an unfortunate reality. In fact, elders are often specifically targeted by criminals looking to commit fraud and identity theft. There are many ways to prevent fraud and identity theft. It is important for elders, or their loved ones, to monitor their credit, and regularly review account statements to try to prevent or stop financial abuse.
All Californians are entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. To get your free annual credit report visit www.annualcreditreport.com. This federal government approved website will enable you to pull your credit, or the credit of a loved senior, and receive a full report once each year.
While one free credit search is made available each year, elders would be smart to check their credit 2 or 3 times per year. Credit reports typically cost less than $20, and provide invaluable peace of mind by confirming that unauthorized accounts have not been opened, nor have illegitimate items been charged.
In addition to obtaining regular credit reports, it's a good idea to have duplicate copies of monthly account statements sent not only to the elder, but to their trusted Financial Advisor, attorney, CPA, or a trusted family member. This will provide additional confirmation that all charges appear accurate, nobody has acquired the account number, and it is not being used without the consent of the elder.
Warning signs of fraud on bank statements may include:
*Withdrawals from outside of the elder's primary area residence;
*Repeated withdrawals, particularly if the elder spends most of their time at home; and
*Checks written to unusual or unfamiliar people, organizations, or stores.
Keeping an eye on credit is important for Californians of all ages. However, it is especially important to monitor credit statements and account balances for elders who may have declining mental capacities, or medical conditions such as dementia that put them at greater risk for becoming a victim of financial elder abuse.
If you suspect, or confirm that your loved elder is the victim of financial abuse in California there are certain steps you should take. You may report any suspicion of abuse to the National Elder Abuse Hotline at 1-800-677-1116. In California, reports can be made to the local county Adult Protective Services Agency or to local law enforcement.