Financial Exploitation

Margaret, who was becoming frail, allowed a woman to move into a room in her home in exchange for some help with light errands. Several months later, Margaret's daughter discovered that the woman had stolen thousands of dollars from Margaret's bank account using her ATM card. The woman had also had taken Margaret to a lawyer and obtained "power of attorney" for herself.

Financial exploitation is the misuse of someone else's money, without their consent. Many people are swindled by people they know - caregivers, neighbors, even relatives.

Examples of financial exploitation include: threatening someone into giving away money; tricking a person with a memory problem into turning over money; forging signatures on checks or withdrawal slips; making unauthorized withdrawals from bank accounts; charging excessive fees for rent or caregiver services, and committing person-to-person, mail, or telephone fraud scams.

What you can do to protect your money:

  • Put all financial instructions in writing. This protects you and reduces the likelihood of misunderstandings. Keep records of all transactions.

  • Understand any lifelong care agreements you are entering into. Document the agreement and specify the compensation, if there is any, to be paid to the caregiver.

  • Ask someone to review your financial agreements. Your attorney, accountant, or a bank employee can detect changes in your financial activity that may signal a problem. You can also ask a trusted friend or relative to review your monthly statements.

  • Be cautious of joint accounts. Both parties are equal owners of the account and both have equal access to the money.

  • Before you assign a power of attorney, be sure you understand the authority you are giving to your agent. Know the person to whom you are giving this authority. Write in the agreement whether the agent will be paid or not, and if so, how much.

  • Ask a bank employee, a trusted family member, or a social worker or other professional for help when you are unsure about financial matters.

  • Stay connected to your community. Social isolation increases your risk of becoming a victim of abuse. Find out about community programs or social activities in your neighborhood.

Other tips to help you protect your money:

  • Use a direct deposit service for your checks.
  • Don't sign blank checks allowing another person to fill in the amount.
  • Don't leave money or valuables in plain view.
  • Don't sign anything you don't understand.
  • Cancel your ATM card if you don't use it.
  • Don't give anyone your ATM PIN.
  • Check your financial statements promptly and carefully for unauthorized withdrawals.
  • Build good relationships with the professionals who handle your money.
  • Don't give any account number to a stranger.


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