Seniors must be proactive at fighting against financial abuse

A report published just this month by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) captures how at least 6.6 percent of Americans aged 65 or over have lost money after having been defrauded or exploited. Given that an estimated 10,000 new people turn 65 on a daily basis, the SEC contends that the number of seniors that will likely face elder financial abuse is expected to rise.

One way in which seniors can protect themselves from financial exploitation is by avoiding using cash and instead using debit or credit cards. By doing the latter, it leaves behind a paper trail. It can make it easier for banks to reverse unauthorized charges, help police identify the culprits who engaged in impropriety and simply allow you to keep better track of what comes and goes out of your account.

It also helps if you set up for your Social Security or pension funds to be direct deposited right into your bank account and for your utilities to be automatically drafted from it. While this can make it easier to keep track of what's going and coming, it also ensures that bills get paid.

While anyone can benefit from having one, seniors should draft a power of attorney. The person that you appoint to this role should be someone that you trust to handle your personal affairs on your behalf.

You should also add an authorized signer to your bank account. If you do, then they'll be able access the account activity, take care of deposits, withdrawal funds and sign checks all on your behalf.

Keep in mind though that a joint account holder and authorized signer are different. The former jointly owns the account with you and can drain it dry if they like. The latter isn't able to do that as they have no legal right to the account once you pass away.

Seniors in Lafayette can also benefit from regularly checking their credit report to check and see if new credit cards and other debts have been opened up in their names.

Financial abuse or exploitation of seniors can come from many different sources, including nursing home employees, telemarketers, contractors and sadly even family members. State law exists to protect the interests of California seniors. If you suspect abuse, then you'll want to consult with a financial abuse attorney who is able to take swift action to protect your loved one.

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