One of the most troubling and sensitive issues our industry faces is working with clients who exhibit signs of financial fraud or abuse. As part of Pan-American’s continuing commitment to being “People You Can Trust for Life,” we want to raise awareness of the financial exploitation of older persons or adults with disabilities. Financial exploitation can happen anywhere and affects all socio-economic groups, cultures, and races.
Vulnerable adults are often the preferred targets of financial abuse because they are perceived as being more trusting or less financially sophisticated. Sadly, this type of crime is often committed by a family member, friend, or caregiver of the victim. Financial abuse can include the misuse of a credit card or ATM card, the taking of money or valuables without permission, signing or cashing Social Security checks, use of the victim’s identity to obtain credit, misuse of a power of attorney to steal money or assets, or even coercing the individual into signing over property. Vulnerable adults may be unaware of, or deny the abuse for fear of being left alone or being placed into a nursing facility.
You can help stop this troublesome trend. As a friend or family member of an elder or disabled adult, be alert to the potential indicators of financial abuse. Possible warning signs may include unusual interest by family, friends, or caregivers in a vulnerable adult’s financial affairs; reluctance by a relative or caregiver to spend money for the older or disabled adult’s medical needs; unexplained disappearance of valuable possessions or funds; or abrupt changes in an insurance policy, financial document, or will. In addition, a vulnerable adult who appears abandoned, neglected, dazed or particularly fearful or anxious around an individual may be a potential victim of financial abuse.
You should also keep in mind that none of us are immune from being the target of a financial scam. Here are some of the ways you may help protect yourself from becoming a victim:
If you suspect that you or a loved one may be the victim of financial abuse, please report it to your local law enforcement or adult abuse hotline. Your local authorities can provide you with guidance about your particular situation.