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How to Avoid Financial Exploitation

Concerned that you may be vulnerable to fraud? Here are some ways you can protect yourself:

Choose Caregivers with Caution

Do not assume that by hiring a caregiver through a bonded agency you are guaranteed to get someone who is trustworthy.

Inventory Jewelry & Valuables

Jewelry is the number one item that is stolen from homes occupied by elders. Not only should your jewelry be kept in a locked drawer, you should have photographs of valuable items in a separate location.

Phone Security:  Caller ID

Crooks love the telephone. It is now their weapon of choice.  The minimal cost of caller ID is well worth it. If the incoming call is classified as “private” or “unknown,” the level of suspicion should go up.

If it is too good to be true, it is

If a smooth talking man calls to say that you are the proud winner of the Canadian lottery, he is a liar. Similarly, if you get an email or letter from Madrid indicating that you could receive a substantial amount of money, it is bogus.

Identity Protection

Identity theft is common. Take steps to prevent it.

1.  Run a credit check - To discover whether someone has applied for or obtained a credit card in your name,

obtain a credit search on yourself periodically from one of the three major credit bureaus:  Experian, Equifax or Trans Union.

2.  Protect your mail - If possible, do not allow your mail to sit in an unsecured mailbox where the public has access.  Consider purchasing a locked mailbox, renting a post office box, or installing a mail slot in your front door.

3.  Shred important documents - Every piece of mail containing your name, address and any other identifying  information should be shredded before being discarded.

Duplicate Bank Statements

Consider allowing the bank to send a duplicate copy of your bank statement to a trusted family member or financial advisor.  Sadly, most financial elder exploitation cases are only reported or discovered six to nine months after the initial losses have occurred. Elders whose sight is failing are at greater risk because they may rely upon the very person who is stealing from them to insure that the financial transactions are in order. An independent pair of eyes that is able to look over bank statements every 30 days will be able to catch suspicious activities in the early stages.

Be Careful with Contractors

Before committing to any work on your home, always obtain at least three estimates in writing and check on the contractor with both the Better Business Bureau and with the State License Contractor’s Board. Never pay more than 10% of the contract price up front.

Protect your front door

You should either have a locked screen door or a security chain guard at your front door. Crooks will attempt to gain entry to your home by using excuses such as a fake emergency, or false uniforms and badges. By having a second line of defense, you will be able to communicate with the stranger on the doorstep without exposing yourself to the possibility of a forced entry. Never allow any stranger into your home even if the emergency seems real. Instead, tell the stranger that you will call 911.

Cowles & Thompson