As individuals age, being financially exploited can become a real possibility for many. This can happen to even some of the most financially experienced people. This is why it is very important to be on the lookout as this could happen to you. Getting educated about these topics and being aware of how others can financially take advantage of you is the first step you can take to ensure that it doesn’t happen to you. Therefore, to begin, it is essential to understand what financial exploitation may consist of and the ways it can affect you.
The Various Types of Financial Exploitation
By definition, financial exploitation occurs when an individual misuses or takes the assets of another adult for personal gain. This may frequently occur without the knowledge of an the victim – ultimately depriving them of their financial resources that fulfill their personal needs. Assets are commonly stolen through deception, false pretenses, harassment, threats, and more. The most common forms of financial exploitation are:
- Theft – Theft is by far one of the most common forms of financial exploitation and it consist of having assets taken without knowledge; cash, valuables, etc. This can happen when scam emails are sent out demanding money, when a relative or person close to them steals directly from them, or when your bank account is hacked. If you find yourself falling victim to some form of theft, it is important to contact authorities or your bank immediately.
- Fraud – Fraud is another commonly utilized form of financial exploitation that involves acts of dishonesty through persons entrusted to manage assets but the perpetrator appropriates assets for unintended uses. These includes record falsification, forgery, unauthorized check writing, and Ponzi-type schemes. If you feel as if the person that is managing your assets is lying or being untruthful to you, then it is important to reach out to a trusted person who can help you investigate.
- Investment – Any investments made without knowledge or consent and include high-fee funds are a red flag that you may be taken advantage of financially. Excessive trading activity in order to generate commissions for financial advisors is another key indicator that someone is taking advantage of you. As mentioned previously, a Ponzi scheme is a common type of investment fraud that you should be aware of. If you are receiving returns that are appearing to be extremely high on paper every time a financial report comes around – you may have fallen victim to a Ponzi scheme.
- Insurance – Insurance fraud involves the sale of inappropriate products, which may include several year annuities for an individual or unauthorized trading of life insurance policies. Insurance fraud is primarily focused on people that have accumulated significant funds throughout their lifetime.
- Electronic: This category also encompasses theft and can be perpetrated when victims receive “phishing” emails imploring them to surrender bank passwords, leading to wire transfers of money and telephonic communications and transactions as well. If an email sounds suspect or unrealistic, it is important to call the company allegedly sending it and receiving confirmation that they are the ones who actually sent the email themselves.
- Real Estate – The last common form of financial exploitation pertains to real estate. This concept pertains to the involvement of unauthorized sales, transfers or changes to properly titles, and could also include invalid changes to documents. Any form of real estate exploitation could cost you thousands of dollars, which is why it is especially important to be educated about this topic if you are looking to sell your house or hand off a property to someone.
All of these types of financial exploitation could cost you large sums of money, which is why it is very important to be educated about these topics and know when to report these crimes. You should report any suspicious activity that include termination of vital utilities, unpaid bills and liabilities, checks written to “cash”, transferring of assets to new “friends” assisting with finances, and any giving away of money or excessive spending on bank accounts. Keep up with your current finances at all times and ensure that you are aware as soon as something suspicious has occurred.
Using AARP’s Bank Safe Initiative and How AARP Fights Elder Financial Exploitation
If you feel as if you could potentially fall victim to financial exploitation down the road, consider using a financial institution that participates in AARP’s BankSafe Initiative. BankSafe helps prepare financial professionals to protect individuals who may fall victim to financial exploitation. BankSafe can help combat any of the potential types of financial exploitation listed above such as theft, fraud, real estate, insurance, and investment. BankSafe focuses on various areas of a person’s financial situation, such as prevention of financial exploitation, family caregiver empowerment, and making banking environments much easier for individuals to access. Financial exploitation prevention is a key component of AARP and is critical to the mission of allowing people to choose how they live as they are older.
This mission is successfully fulfilled through conducting research into consumer insights, partnership facilitation of the aging network and financial institutions, and ultimately the development of the BankSafe training platform to help financial professionals identify and eliminate any suspected financial exploitation.
If your financial professional has BankSafe training, you can feel confident that he or she is well prepared to help you protect yourself from the types of financial exploitation discussed above.