Financial abuse against elderly individuals is far more prominent than most people realize. In fact, in 2015 alone and estimated 25,000 elderly Canadians were financially harmed. In a 2014 survey, approximately 40% of seniors said that they had been financially abused in the past. Unfortunately, this abuse may be caused by individuals in whom you place the most trust, including caretakers and children. More than half of financial abuse victims know their abuser because it was someone that they trusted.
As the number of Canadians who are over 65 in Vancouver will reach 15.6 percent of the population by 2021, it is especially important to be aware of the potential for financial abuse. As an older adult, you can take steps to decrease the likelihood that you will be a target of financial abuse. Although there are situations that cannot be avoided, taking additional steps to protect yourself can be extremely helpful.
Carefully Scrutinize Requests for Loans or Gifts
It is not uncommon for older individuals to want to share their accumulated wealth with their younger loved ones. However, when family members request gifts or loans, you should scrutinize these transactions carefully. When you OK a loan, be sure that you see and understand how much the loan is for and where the money originated. You do not want to accidentally allow a loved one to put their name on your bank account or something similar when you did not mean to give them free reign over your finances.
In general, joint accounts can be a problem because another person does not need your permission to withdraw your money. This can be tempting for many loved ones and cause even inadvertent financial abuse.
Develop a Good Relationship with Your Banker or Financial Advisor
You can curb financial abuse long before it happens if you have a good relationship with your banker. He or she will spot unusual transactions or withdraws and let you know about them. This works well if your broker knows and understands your financial habits and spending needs. That way, he or she will be able to recognize and inquire about irregularities.
Having a personal relationship with your banker can also help you deal with situations where a person that the manager does not know attempts to move money. Simply triggering questions can go a long way to prevent financial abuse.
Take Steps to Plan Ahead
Incapacity is perhaps the most common reason that financial abuse occurs. A loved one or caretaker may assume that you have no idea what is going on, so they take advantage of that situation. If you have protections in place to avoid those circumstances, they will be unable to commit financial abuse in many cases.
For example, you may set up a power of attorney to spring into action should you become incapacitated. The power of attorney will name someone that you trust, or even your financial advisor, to be in charge of managing your finances. That way, he or she is the only person that has access to your finances and can help you curb abuse. Hopefully, that person will also have an understanding of how you want your money used as well.
Seek Help from the Authorities
Financial abuse is a crime. If you suspect that you have been taken advantage of financially, there are resources available to you to report this type of behaviour. At the very least, you can contact the police to start an investigation. If you do not want to involve the police, you may be able to use additional resources that provide guardian and trustee services.
Not sure where to turn? Diamond and Diamond Personal Injury Lawyers are committed to treating you like family and can help connect you with the right lawyer for your case. Call 1-800-567-HURT for more information.