Discussing concerns about financial exploitation
Talking about financial exploitation can feel like you're questioning the older adult's abilities or other people's intentions. However, talking and taking action are necessary to protect older adults' resources, health and well-being.
You can start by discussing how common financial exploitation is and how the older adult can guard against it. For example:
"I just learned that at least five percent of older adults have been victims of financial exploitation?"
"Financial exploitation can happen to anyone. One study found that people who had been exploited were actually more financially savvy than non-victims."
"Sales calls can be really annoying. Can I help you sign up for the 'do not call' list?"
"Can I look to see what security and malware protection is on your computer?"
"With more people coming into your home to help now, do you keep financial information and valuables locked up?"
"Could I help check references for those home repair contractors?"
"How often do you look at bank and credit card statements? Do you want to sign up for free credit check reports?"
If you have concerns about the people around the older adult or concerns that certain things the older adult does might increase the risk of financial exploitation, say so. It can help to:
Be specific: "You're so nice you have trouble hanging up on or saying no to pushy salespeople. But that's exactly what scammers count on."
Be supportive: "I'm worried because I know lots of people target older adults, and financial exploitation can be really serious. Do you have any concerns? What can I do?"
Make clear you're not judging the older adult: "You do a great job managing finances and I understand these security measures might feel over-the-top. Are you willing to try them out?"
Focus on other people's behaviors: "It bothers me when Fred pushes you to do things for him. How do you feel about it? Have you talked with him?"
Stress how sophisticated scams can be: "Scammers come up with new approaches all the time, using technology, targeting people and playing off their hopes or fears."
If the older adult or you suspect financial exploitation, report your concerns. You don't need proof. Local law enforcement or adult protective services will investigate.
Most cases of financial exploitation aren't reported, often because people are embarrassed or don't want to turn in someone they know. If the older adult is reluctant to involve authorities, point out that filing a report might keep other people from becoming victims. The report could also help the older adult recover stolen money or property.