How to Manage Moving After Major Life Transitions

10 Ways To Protect Senior Citizens From Financial Exploitation

Assisted living senior care facilities are an attractive alternative to nursing homes because they provide personalized services in a residential setting. Residents receive three meals per day, laundry services, and other necessities, but they are able to maintain some level of independence. Unfortunately, unscrupulous people often prey on seniors who have moved out of their homes and are preoccupied with getting settled at their new residences. Follow these tips to help your loved one avoid being exploited financially.

1. Schedule a monthly review of financial statements.

When you visit the assisted living facility, take time to sit with your loved one and review financial statements from the past month. Check statements from banks, investment firms, and stock brokerages to be sure no one has made any unauthorized withdrawals. If you notice any unusual transactions, discuss them to be sure relatives or friends are not taking advantage of your loved one's generosity.

2. Store important documents in a safe or locked box.

Ask your loved one to keep important documents in a safe or fire-proof box. If these documents are stored in a safe place, there is less of a chance that a visitor will have the opportunity to make unauthorized changes or access private information.

3. Pay service providers directly via check, money order, or online banking.

If the monthly fee for assisted living does not include telephone or cable television service, make sure you pay service providers directly via check, money order, or automatic withdrawal. If your loved one does not have a lot of cash on hand, relatives and friends won't be able to ask for loans or cash gifts.

4. Discuss financial issues with an experienced attorney.

Make sure your loved one has access to an attorney with experience handling elder-care issues, especially if one of your relatives has tried to exploit elderly family members in the past. An attorney should be involved any time your loved one wants to adjust a last will and testament, make changes to power of attorney documents, or update an advanced directive.

5. Ask if your loved one has gotten any unexpected visitors.

Visitors are usually a good thing once a senior citizen moves into an assisted living facility, but there are people who use their visits to influence seniors to part with cash or valuable possessions. Talk to your loved one about who has been visiting the assisted living center. If you are suspicious of a person's reasons for visiting, especially if they have been out of touch with your loved one for several years, discuss your concerns with other family members.

6. Freeze your loved one's credit reports.

A credit freeze makes it more difficult for scammers and identity thieves to open up credit accounts in your loved one's name. When your loved one moves into the assisted living facility, contact the three major credit-reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. There is a small fee for this service, but five or ten dollars can buy you peace of mind and prevent a scammer from racking up thousands of dollars in purchases in your loved one's name.

7. Discuss any unusual purchases with your loved one.

When you review your loved one's credit card statements, look for unusual purchases. If you know your loved one has no way to get to the local shopping center, for example, you should be suspicious of charges from brick-and-mortar stores in that plaza.

8. Set up automatic account transfers.

If your loved one receives Social Security or pension payments, set up automatic transfers between the deposit account and other accounts. Keeping funds in several places limits the amount of money accessible to a scammer who gets ahold of your loved one's checking account number. 

9. Add your loved one's new telephone number to the Do Not Call Registry.

Limiting contact with telemarketers reduces the risk that your loved one will be scammed out of hard-earned money. Once your loved one is assigned a new phone number, add the number to the Do Not Call Registry. 

10. Review solicitations from nonprofit organizations.

Scammers aren't above sending out solicitations for non-existent nonprofit organizations. Prevent your loved one from being scammed by reviewing any solicitations that come in the mail. If your loved one wants to donate to a charity, use the IRS Select Check tool to determine if the organization is a legitimate one.

Moving into an assisted living or senior care facility is a great way for senior citizens to maintain their independence, but you do have to be aware of the potential for financial fraud. Follow these tips to ensure your loved one does not fall victim to one of the many scams aimed at the elderly.