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Member Guest Blog: How Seniors Can Recognize Financial Scams

Courtesy of NBT Bank
www.nbtbank.com

Every year, millions of seniors fall victim to financial fraud. Studies show elder financial abuse costs seniors approximately $2.9 billion each year. In recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15, NBT Bank is urging older customers and their trusted caregivers to safeguard all personal information and stay alert to the common signs of financial abuse.

“Elder financial exploitation crosses all social, educational and economic boundaries,” said NBT Bank Executive Vice President of Operations and Retail Banking Joseph Stagliano, “With an aging population, it is becoming increasingly important for individuals, families and caregivers to be aware of the many scams and coercive activities that target financial exploitation of the elderly.”

Older adults are more at-risk because many depend on others for care, are not sure how to manage finances, are pressured into giving money, may fear retaliation, or are simply unable to detect a scam. Financial exploitation often leads to unlawful access and use of an older person’s financial assets and resources.

Common scams from strangers include a “grandparent scam” in which an older adult is told a grandchild is in some type of trouble and money is required to help; a “lottery” or “sweepstakes” scam that requires an older adult to pay alleged taxes and fees to collect winnings from a fake sweepstakes; and a “tax scam” that claims the older adult owes back taxes or underpaid their taxes.

Abuse is not limited to strangers, though. Family members, caregivers, neighbors and others may try to take an older adult’s debit card or checks without permission, forge the victim’s signature, or trick the victim into signing a blank check.

NBT Bank is offering the following tips to help prevent elder financial abuse:

  1. Plan ahead to protect your assets and to ensure your wishes are followed. Talk to someone at your financial institution, an attorney, or financial advisor about the best options for you.
  2. Lock up your checkbook, account statements and other sensitive information when others will be in your home.
  3. Never give personal information, including your Social Security Number, account number or other financial information to anyone over the phone unless you initiated the call and the other party is trusted.
  4. Never pay a fee or taxes to collect sweepstakes or lottery “winnings.”
  5. Never rush into a financial decision.  Ask for details in writing and get a second opinion.
  6. Consult with a financial advisor or attorney before signing any document you don’t understand.
  7. Get to know your banker and build a relationship with the people who handle your finances. They can look out for any suspicious activity related to your account.
  8. Check references and credentials before hiring anyone. Don’t allow workers to have access to information about your finances.
  9. Pay with checks and credit cards instead of cash to keep a paper trail.
  10. You have the right not to be threatened or intimidated. If you think someone close to you is trying to take control of your finances, call your local Adult Protective Services or tell someone at your bank.

If you believe you are a victim of financial abuse, be sure to:

  • Talk to a trusted family member who has your best interests at heart.
  • Call the police or your local Office of the Aging/Adult Protective services.
  • Talk to an officer at your bank.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day was launched on June 15, 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations.

NBT Bank has been a member of The Chamber since 1985.