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Tips to protect seniors from financial abuse

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The Department of Banking and Securities (DoBS) is reminding Pennsylvanians about signs of senior financial exploitation and ways to help prevent this type of abuse.

While elder financial abuse can happen at any time, perpetrators often strike during times in a senior’s life when they may be more vulnerable, such as during a health crisis or after the death of a loved one. Scammers often gather personal details from obituaries and social media posts and use this information to target their victims. Some even will exploit trust within seniors’ social and support groups to become more involved in their lives.

Warning signs of senior financial exploitation can be difficult to identify or recognize. Common signs to watch for include:
 
• A new and overly protective friend or caregiver or surrendering control of finances to a new friend or partner.
 
• Fear or sudden change in feelings about somebody.
 
• A lack of knowledge about financial status or reluctance to discuss financial matters.
 
• Sudden or unexplained changes in spending habits, a will, trust, or beneficiary designations.
 
• Unexplained checks made out to cash, unexplained loans, or unexplained disappearance of assets (cash, valuables, securities, etc.). Also watch for suspicious signatures on the senior’s checks or other documents.

How to help:
 
• Contact older family members, friends, and neighbors to let them know you are thinking of them. While in-person visits may not be possible yet, call or leave a note on their front door. If they have the technology, send them a text or email, or video chat.
 
• Inform older family members to know that fraudsters and scammers have found ways to exploit the pandemic. Make them aware of the red flags of fraud, which remain consistent regardless of the fraud or scam.
 
• Act. DoBS asks anyone with suspicions of possible senior financial exploitation to report it by calling the 24-hour statewide abuse hotline at 1-800-490-8505. If you believe you have fallen victim to a scam, contact local law enforcement.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) is observed annually, on June 15, as the day for the entire world to focus its attention on raising awareness about elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation, and protecting seniors from abuse.

For more detailed information related to financial scams and tips for protecting yourself, DoBS has developed a financial scams guide, https://www.dobs.pa.gov/Businesses/COVID-19%20Information%20and%20Guidance/Pages/COVID19Scams.aspx. Learn more about the free, non-commercial programs and presentations available virtually for your organization or community by contacting informed@pa.gov.

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