Two weeks ago, on June 15, 2022, we celebrated World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD). While the word “celebrate” might seem unsuitable, a day highlighting efforts to bring more respect and dignity to people as they age is truly a cause to honor. The World Health Organization and the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse launched WEAAD in 2006 (#RefuseToAbuse) by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations. There are seven types of abuse this day brings awareness to, we’ll focus on the prevention of financial or material exploitation of elders.
What is financial or material exploitation? Financial and/or material exploitation is the improper use of an elder’s funds, property, or resources by another individual including, but not limited to, fraud, false pretenses, embezzlement, conspiracy, forgery, falsifying records, coercion, property transfers, or denial of access to assets.
Who is more vulnerable? People over the age of 80, women more than men, those with poor physical or mental health, and people who live alone.
What are the signs you might see? Signs you might see that an elder friend or loved one is being exploited are large sums missing, the inability of the elder to access information, the elder offering gifts in exchange for companionship, strange or unexplained transactions, and secrecy or shame around money. They can be exploited through phone calls, deceptive mailers, and even door-to-door salespeople. Some criminals exploit legitimate concerns like home heating, home upgrades, cost of fuel, or care availability. Inflation and the stress associated could make elders even more vulnerable. Fraudsters are sophisticated and can produce legitimate-looking credentials. Sadly, and all too frequently elders can also be exploited by members of their own families. Loved ones can combat potential abuse by checking in regularly and comparing notes with other family and friends about potential signs of abuse.
What are we doing as advisors? You may have noticed over the last few years that we have been bringing Schwab’s Trusted Contact option to your attention. Trusted contacts are who we would call if see any concerning transactions and we are not able to reach you. Trusted Contacts do not receive or have access to financial information or have authority to make decisions, but they could be important in providing a wellness check.
We have recently updated our information-sharing agreement so that we can also call your attorney or accountant if we think they might have insight into suspicious activity, and we’re unable to reach you. In addition to regular meetings, we offer family meetings; this is one of the best tools to combat elder abuse because we hear your plan in your own words year after year.
Lastly, our teams span decades in age, so notes and observations about our financial and planning relationships live through all vacations, staff changes, or retirements, and your team remains equipped to know you, your wishes, and your needs.
Marietta Hall, CFP®
Senior Financial Advisor