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Would you know if an elderly loved one was being ripped off?

When caregivers were surveyed, they reported that 37 percent of the seniors they worked with had fallen prey to financial schemes. Another frequently cited statistic is equally disturbing: only one in 44 cases of financial exploitation is reported.

Because reporting is so low due to embarrassment, it falls to family members to watch for tell-tale signs. First, it is important to note that cognitive abilities start to decline in the 70s. While each individual is unique, children of older parents need to be on guard. This blog will discuss some signs that could indicate something is wrong.

Deceptive practices

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau accepts complaints and offers examples of some deceptive practices it encounters. Some tactics include:

  • Asking for an upfront fee to secure a promised prize
  • Pressuring someone to act quickly, because the offer is "only good today"
  • Requesting that the transaction is kept a secret until finalized

These may mean that an elderly woman who no longer drives is still paying for a "great deal" on oil changes through direct debts. Or a loved one might be paying monthly for a credit monitoring service he or she doesn't understand or need. Inappropriate products also include financial products from reverse mortgages to annuities and debit cards. Each comes with a fee that can deplete a fixed income and leave necessary bills unpaid.

Pay close attention

While about one in five people over 71 have some mild cognitive impairment. That increases to about half for those in their 80s. A smart big-picture move is often to discuss a financial power of attorney with aging parents. This allows you to step in when there are signs of problems.

Elder financial abuse takes many forms. It could be petty theft when a well regarded caregiver slips small amounts of cash from a purse. Unfortunately, it is often those who you have come to trust that commit elder abuse. It's often family members, friends, neighbors and even financial professionals.

A few signs to watch out for include checks that might be out of numerical order or mail redirected to a new address. Easier signs to spot include an unkept appearance or growing social isolation. Confusion, changes in behavior and short-term memory issues may also indicate there could be problems.

Each family has unique dynamics, which means an effective solution needs to be customized. The power of attorney is a start. A variety of bill paying and bank account monitoring services can offer protection and stop a loved one from falling for a con. An attorney who focuses on elder law can often provide guidance after you explain your concerns.

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