Regulator flags potential signs of financial abuse

How can individuals protect themselves from financial exploitation?

Regulator flags potential signs of financial abuse
Individuals who may no longer have the capacity to oversee their own financial matters might be subject to abuse by their guardians, said the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA).

The association released a new publication detailing the signs of financial abuse by guardians assigned to assist individuals with their financial matters.

A guardian, as the defined by the association, is a person or entity appointed by a court to make decisions related to health and safety of the incapacitated person.

NASAA said it is highly likely that a protected individual is being abused when there are no explanations for large account withdrawals and no understanding of guardian's financial decisions. Other signs of abuse include large loans or gifts made without to financial security, social isolation, and total dependence on the guardian.

The noticeable neglect or decline in appearance, grooming, or hygiene of an individual may also signal that he or she is being exploited, so is the unusual degree of fear, anxiety, submissiveness, or deference towards the guardian.

There are also telling signs that the guardians are abusing the protected individuals. At the top of the list is using guardianship authority to transfer property for the guardian's benefit. Additionally, receiving personal payments from a protected individual without court permission may point to a possible offence.

Here are other signs included in the NASAA publication:
  • Authorizing frequent cash withdrawals from the protected individual’s accounts without explanation.
  • Using or borrowing property for personal benefit without court authorization.
  • Being overly secretive about the protected individual’s finances.
  • Depending on the protected individual’s personal finances.
  • Making unexplained decisions that are not in the protected individual’s best interest.
  • Isolating the protected individual.

“Through this resource, we hope to help focus attention on the warning signs of suspected guardian financial abuse,” NASAA president and Alabama Securities Commission director Joseph Borg said.

He encouraged those who might have knowledge of suspected financial abuse to contact the police, Adult Protective Services, state or provincial financial services regulators, or other government agencies to get help for the victims.

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