Protecting Your Loved Ones from Elder Financial Abuse

In more than 20 years spent working in the financial industry, I’ve learned a lot about how to build and maintain wealth, as well as how to protect against threats.

Unfortunately, and especially in the digital age, no one is immune to financial crime — and senior citizens are often the most vulnerable. My own mother has been exploited by two callers; one who claimed to be the IRS and another pretending to represent a nonprofit she had contributed to over the years, who ultimately convinced her to share credit card information.

To make matters worse, these increasingly sophisticated tactics don’t always come from professional thieves. Sadly, I have seen elderly exploited by their own children and others closest to them. Many of these threats target the forgetfulness that often accompanies late life — entirely human errors, like missing dates on the calendar or checkbook entries, and accidentally throwing out important pieces of mail.

At Bartlett, our staff is trained to spot the warning signs to protect elderly clients from financial scams, cyber theft or when they start to show signs of lack of attentiveness to financial matters.  Advisors spend time upfront establishing privacy agreements and Letters of Authorization (LOA) before dispensing advice.  Below are some of the top pieces of advice we give to individuals seeking to protect their own assets or those of their aging parents.

Work with trustworthy advisors.

I cannot overstate the importance of having trusted advisors in place who are up to date on the latest technology — and the latest scams. Your advisor should know the right questions to quickly get to the root of an issue. Bartlett has long invested in cybersecurity training and technology, and we use safeguards such as account activity alerts, secure client portals, and voice verification to thwart even the most persistent criminals.

Know how to spot and combat common tactics.

Email (including Microsoft Outlook) is the most common method for thieves to mimic legitimate entities. Representing IRS or bank officials over the phone is another popular method thieves use to convince older people to share sensitive info. Remember: Even if an email signature looks real, or a caller sounds official, these legitimate financial entities would never ask for credit card information over the phone.

Invest in your financial security.

It costs very little to protect yourself, and it costs nothing to adopt good security habits. Buy an inexpensive computer to use for accounts access  only and do not send or receive private email on that computer. You can purchase malware protection and programs like LastPass (or use the free version) to keep track of passwords. Never click on a link or attachment unless you’re absolutely certain who sent it. And finally, discuss finances face-to-face whenever possible, and never share sensitive account information over the phone with a stranger.