Criminals looking to make a quick buck are no longer the only ones preying on older Americans.
A Consumer Reports investigation has found increasingly it's trusted family and friends who are abusing the elderly by draining bank accounts, selling valuables, or even taking over their real estate. And those crimes can often be very difficult to spot.
Caregivers, family members, and neighbors can use all kinds of tactics to raid their assets. They can be as obvious as forging signatures on checks, begging for loans that are never paid back, or abusing power of attorney.
When you give power of attorney to someone, it can give him unfettered access to your accounts. Someone who misuses those powers can do real damage. And that's a real problem for the elderly.
Consumer Reports says to help prevent elder abuse:
- Have bank and investment statements sent to a person you trust to monitor accounts.
- Arrange for direct deposit and automatic bill pay.
- Consult a reputable elder law attorney for advice on wills and limiting power of attorney.
Consumer Reports says there are good places to get help if you or an elderly relative is concerned about financial abuse, including the National Center on Elder Abuse, which has links to help and hotlines. That website is ncea.aoa.gov .