It's increasingly falling to the advisor to shield their elderly clients from the financial abuse of even loved ones.
Seniors are prime targets for financial abuse and fraud, leaving financial advisors in a position to prevent and protect.
Since the elderly are often targeted by someone they trust, or even love, the abuse may go undetected, perhaps discovered long after financial consequences have set in. Therefore, it is all the more pertinent for an advisor to be on the lookout for key signs that abuse is happening.
Marking Financial Literacy Month – the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada released an online financial literacy guide – Living in Retirement – this week, highlighting senior financial abuse and fraud as a top concern and focus in the guide.
As an advisor, here are some signs you can watch out for:
- Confusion about new legal documents such as a will or mortgage.
- Sudden drop in cash flow or financial holdings.
- Reluctance to speak about their financial situation.
- Fear, anxiety, depression or passiveness in relation to a family member, friend or care provider.
- Irrational persistence by a family member, friend or care provider to be involved in the financial planning process. (continued on Page 2.)
Some financial abuse is clearly defined as theft or fraud, while others are more ellusive. Becoming well-versed about all the possibilities will ensure your elderly clients are as protected as much as possible by you, their financial advisor.
Clear-cut examples of theft or fraud include:
- Misuse or theft of a senior's assets, property or money (commonly from joint bank accounts or through improper use of a power of attorney).
- Taking senior’s money or cashing cheques without permission.
- Forging a senior’s signature or altering documents to get permission to access or dispose of assets.
- Common scams include identity fraud, debit/credit card fraud, email/phone fraud. real estate fraud and online fraud.
Arbitrary examples of theft or fraud include:
- Monetary gifts that are involuntary (i.e. gifts made under coercion, undue influence or threats, loans that are not repaid).
- Lending or giving away money, property or possessions
- Selling or moving homes (i.e. mortgage obtained for a another’s financial gain, property pledged to secure another’s loan).
- Making or changing a will or power of attorney.
- Signing legal or financial documents not understood.
- Working for little or no money, including caring for children or grandchildren.
- Making a purchase not needed or wanted.
- Providing food or shelter to others without being paid.
- Predatory marriage (pressured into marriage solely for another’s financial profit). (continued on Page 3.)
Help protect your clients by offering them these key tips to avoid vulnerability.
- Keep financial and personal information in a safe place.
- Keep a consistent, trustworthy power of attorney.
- Ask for help if experiencing financial abuse.
- Keep a record of money and identify whether it is a loan or a gift.
- Get legal advice before signing documents on property.
- Have a trustworthy individual review contracts and other papers before signing.
- Be very cautious about opening a joint bank account.
Keep in touch with a variety of friends and family to avoid isolation.