Older Adults are prime targets for financial exploitation both by persons they know and trust and by strangers. There are many ways in which financial exploitation can occur- Reverse mortgage fraud, Identity theft, Computer and Internet scams, Contractor fraud and home improvement scams, Investment fraud, Scams by telemarketers, Exploitation by an agent under Power of Attorney or person in a fiduciary relationship. If you or someone you know has been a victim of financial exploitation or another form of elder abuse, there is help available. You can contact Adult Protective Services which is usually part of your county or state department of social services. You can find contact information at www.eldercare.gov, a public service provided by the U.S. Administration on Aging, or by calling 1-800-677-1116. For cases of identity theft, contact your local police and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
A common method of financial exploitation is through identity theft. There are several measures that you can take to help avoid identity theft. First of all, protect your SSN, credit card numbers, PINs, passwords and other personal information. Never provide any of this information when you receive and unwanted telephone call, letter or email. Keep your Social Security card in a safe location and do not preprint your telephone number or driver’s license number on your checks. Another way to avoid identity theft is to sign up for direct deposit for your paycheck, retirement check or state and federal benefits. Direct deposit prevents someone from stealing a check out of your mailbox and forging your signature to access your money. Thoroughly review your bank account statements and credit card bills. Monitor these statements each month and contact your financial institution immediately if there is a discrepancy in your records or if you notice something suspicious. Review your credit report annually and report fraudulent activity. Review your credit report carefully for warning signs of actual or potential identity theft. For example, items that include mention of a credit card, loan, or lease you never signed up for, and requests for a copy of your credit report from someone you do not recognize could be a sign that someone is looking for personal information. To obtain a free copy of your credit report, visit www.annualcreditreport.com. For more information about identity theft, go to www.ftc.gov/idtheft or call 7-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338)