Liz Loewy was the chief of the elder abuse unit in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office where she oversaw the investigation and prosecution of approximately 800 elder abuse cases annually. Since then, she has become an expert on issues related to elder financial abuse and identity theft.
Liz has joined the team of EverSafe where they offer a simple, sophisticated service to combat financial exploitation of older adults. Here are their Ten Top Tips for Preventing Elder Financial Abuse:
1. Have multiple trusted advocates. The “sentinel effect” discourages misconduct by letting those helping to manage a senior’s funds know that their actions are being observed. Having family members or a family member as well as a lawyer, power of attorney, or financial advisor, all of whom have visibility into financial accounts can help ensure no one person is able to take personal advantage. Transparency is critical and is a deterrent in and of itself.
2. Communicate with family members about your future plans. You have a vision for how you want to live as you age. Share it with your family so they understand your views. Consider discussing your will and potentially a “power of attorney” with loved ones, which will enable people to be aware of your intentions and plans in case you do start to lose capacity. If you have a financial advisor, communicate your wishes with them as well.
3. Understand and talk with loved ones about the most common scams targeting seniors. Learn about common scams, like income tax fraud or the “Grandma/Grandpa Scheme,” where an individual calls and pretends to be a grandchild needing money to escape serious trouble. The National Council on Aging offers more common scams on its website.
4. Only give money to entities you have approached. Never provide your personal financial information over the phone to someone who called you first – not even if they claim to be with a company or charity with which you’ve previously engaged. Adding your phone number to the National Do Not Call Registry also makes it illegal for most telemarketers to call you, though charitable organizations are exempt from these restrictions.
5. Be cautious about operating with joint accounts. These can be a good way to allow someone you trust to assist with financial tasks, but naming anyone as a joint account holder gives them direct control over the funds in that account. Joint accounts also make your resources subject to the joint account holder’s creditors in the event of liens.
6. Protect online accounts. In many cases, online banking is much safer and more convenient than paper statements, but it’s not without risk. Use strong passwords (no grandchildren names!) and protect them.
7. Do not provide your account information to anyone who contacts you about a recent data breach. Hackers raiding unsecured databases for personal information are an unfortunate reality of modern life, as are scammers who try to exploit news of these instances by calling or emailing and “phishing” for the information needed to steal your identity. Remember: financial institutions and the IRS do not call or email to ask for personal information.
8. Watch all of your accounts closely. Any unauthorized charge – even something as small as a few dollars – could be a test to see if credentials work and how much attention you are paying. Watch for any unexpected debits or changing patterns of spending.
9. If someone is helping you with financial decisions, have them document all spending. Family relationships can be wrecked by suspicion as much as outright theft, even in the closest of families. Providing visibility into spending helps ensure everyone is clear on how funds are used. Of course, require the same documentation from non-family caregivers as well.
10. Rely on helpful technology to fill gaps. Researchers have found that financial decision-making ability starts to decline by the mid-50s. When you notice financial tasks becoming more difficult or taking longer, consider a technology service that can monitor accounts and identify suspicious activity. Having younger and older family members involved in monitoring each other’s accounts makes sense and provides the most protection.
Elder financial abuse can kill
Elder financial abuse has a devastating effect on seniors. Older victims of physical mistreatment and financial exploitation have a mortality rate three times higher than non-abused seniors. Nest eggs are wiped-out, homes are lost, independence is compromised and self-esteem is destroyed.
Liz spent the last 30 years fighting crime, and is an expert on issues related to elder financial abuse and identity theft. Before coming to EverSafe, Liz was Chief of the Elder Abuse Unit in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. She oversaw the investigation and prosecution of approximately 800 elder abuse cases, annually. She served as co-counsel in the trial involving the financial exploitation of well-known philanthropist Brooke Astor by her son and his attorney, which resulted in convictions as to both defendants. At EverSafe, Liz’s goal is to prevent financial exploitation before it escalates – often costing victims a lifetime of savings. Liz is a sought-after speaker at conferences nationwide and conducts training sessions on financial abuse and how technology can be used to address elder fraud. She is frequently quoted in national publications and has appeared on television and radio.
EverSafe helps protect a lifetime of savings by offering a simple, yet comprehensive service to combat financial exploitation of older adults. EverSafe’s daily monitoring enables seniors, family members and trusted advocates to protect financial accounts, thwart scammers and defeat identity thieves – while preserving independence and privacy. Learn more at: www.eversafe.com.