In recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15, First Interstate is helping stop financial abuse of elderly customers
"The elderly are increasingly becoming targets for financial abuse," said Kelly Bruggeman, Executive Director of the First Interstate BancSystem Foundation. "At least 20 percent of Americans over the age of 65 have been victimized, and many seniors may not even realize it."
Elder financial abuse is a crime that deprives senior citizens of their resources and ultimately their independence.
Bank employees are frequently trained to notice when a customer is vulnerable or a victim of financial abuse by paying attention to red flags, such as:
- Bank activity inconsistent with a person's financial habits
- New acquaintances expressing affection for or residing with an elderly person
- Lack of amenities, even when an elderly person can afford them
- Changes in property titles
- Changes to a person's will
- Missing property
- New powers of attorney the person doesn't understand
- Reluctance to talk about the situation
These red flags can be invaluable when determining abuse - whether it is a bank employee, a close friend, or a family member.
In addition, customers can participate in protecting themselves and loved ones from financial abuse by following these simple tips:
- Keep personal information private Never share your social security number, account information, or personal details over the phone or Internet, unless you initiated contact with a trusted source.
- Shred! Shred! Shred! Shred receipts, bank statements, and unused credit card offers before throwing them away so fraudsters can't piece together your personal information.
- Don't let a so-called "advisor" pressure you Never let a new or untrusted "advisor" pressure you into sharing personal or financial details. They could be a fraudster.
- Review your monthly accounts Check for unauthorized charges on a regular basis. Report lost or stolen checks to your bank immediately.
- Check your credit report Customers should check their credit report at least one a year to ensure no new credit cards or accounts have been opened by criminals in your name.
"Being aware of warning signs and taking simple steps to safeguard personal information can mean the difference between being a victim and a fighter," Bruggeman said.
If you or someone you know is a victim of financial abuse, report the financial abuse to the victim's bank and enlist a banker's help in stopping the abuse and preventing its recurrence.
You may also contact Adult Protective Services in your area for further assistance, and you should report all instances of elder financial abuse to the local police.