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Protecting elderly relatives from financial fraud

Pennsylvania families may find themselves in need of taking action to protect their elderly relatives from financial predators seeking new victims.  Although Congress passed legislation to help prevent third-party financial exploitation, elder fraud can occur while a senior is in the care of a close friend or relative. 

When the victim knows his or her financial abuser, it may become difficult for him or her to report an incident of fraud, which can then allow the exploitation to continue. Taking small amounts of funds from the victim over time can add up until a family finally realizes that an elderly relative’s finances have dwindled down. Unusual cash withdrawals or transactions could be a sign of elder exploitation and may warrant looking into. 

The impact of elder financial abuse is potentially devastating; it could affect a senior’s housing, medical care and personal lifestyle. Seniors who find themselves having fallen for a financial scam may also feel shame, which may lead to withdrawing from friends and family. 

How much Pennsylvania seniors lose 

As noted by the Philly Voice, Pennsylvanians reported more than 8,100 elder fraud cases in 2018. Because so many incidents go unreported, an estimated 190,000 cases may have actually occurred. The Keystone State’s senior citizens lose a total of approximately $1.2 billion to fraud annually, according to data collected by the pro-consumer research firm Comparitech. 

According to AARP, elder abuse in its various forms is an “often-hidden phenomenon.” The advocacy organization noted that the nationwide amount of individual loss seniors incur due to financial exploitation averages greater than $120,000, but many cases remain unreported. 

How to guard against elder fraud 

Planning ahead may make a significant difference in preventing financial abuse of an elderly relative. Creating a power of attorney can be an important first step. By naming an individual as an agent through a POA, he or she gains the authority to oversee a relative’s financial affairs. With a designated and trusted individual watching over matters, predators can find it more difficult to gain access to an elderly relative’s bank accounts, credit cards or investments. 

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