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Elder and Dependent Adult Financial Fraud - Personal Security Center

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Educating Yourself on Elder and Dependent Adult Financial Fraud

Elder Financial Fraud is projected to grow as Baby Boomers age. At Bank of the West we believe that one of the keys to enjoying a healthy and long life is financial security. We can help you understand how to stay safer by taking preventive measures to secure your finances, detecting the signs that someone is targeting you for fraud, and resolving an incidence of fraud should you find yourself a victim.

New Acquaintances

Consider the circumstances under which you build a new friendship. How did this person enter your life, and what are they getting out of the friendship? Where is this person from, what does he or she do for a living, and who are his or her close friends or family?

A common ploy of fraudsters is to befriend you and increasingly gain your trust over time. You may eventually ask this new friend to come with you make a purchase at the grocery store, or to help you to order new bank checks. By gaining access to your trust and financial accounts, the fraudster may deplete your finances without your knowledge. Or, the fraudster may make you reliant on him or her and threaten to not assist you anymore or even harm you in order to get your money.

Discourage fraudsters by having a strong financial plan in place and planning out how you are going to get the physical assistance you may need on a day-to-day basis well ahead of time. A friendship based on your dependence is one you should avoid.

Friends and Family

Unfortunately, many Elder and Dependent Adult Financial Fraud cases involve family members.

A family member may be given the authority to make legal decisions for you and abuse that right. Do not put any one person in absolute control over your finances, and you will avoid being put in position of absolute dependence. Anticipate your needs over time and plan ahead.

If you need help with handling your financial affairs, consult with an attorney about setting up a trust or other actions you can take to protect your assets. Also see an attorney about executing a Power of Attorney naming a person you know well and trust. This person may be an attorney, a family member, or a friend. Once executed, give Bank of the West a copy of the Power of Attorney. Be sure to notify us of any changes to the Power of Attorney.

Sign your own checks and do not write out blank checks for anyone.

Treat every request for your signature very seriously. Read the fine print and ask questions. If you are unsure, consult with an attorney.

When seeking assistance with your finances, ask for help from more than one source in order to be sure that you get an objective view. Should you have any questions, have your local bank representative help you to reconcile any discrepancies you have found.

When you are signing over money or property to anyone in exchange for your care, have an agreement written out and reviewed by your attorney.

Have your financial instructions written out and reviewed by your attorney. Notify the people you trust that you have already written out your instructions and retain them in a safe location. Your attorney should be able to give you more detailed advice on how to proceed.

Contractors, Merchants, Landlords and Others

It is not uncommon for senior citizens to be tricked into paying higher prices for goods or even paying for services he/she never signed up for. A contractor may raise the price of work after starting. A landlord may increase your rent without following the proper legal procedures. Even when you said no to unsolicited offers to purchase magazines or enter sweepstakes by phone, in person, or by email, the goods appear along with a bill.

Educate yourself on the various fraud scams out there. Read through the ID Theft and Internet Scam sections on this site.

Before signing up for any service, get the agreement in writing and read it thoroughly. If you are approached with unsolicited services, it is probably best to say no.

Before hiring a contractor, check the validity of their contractor's license. Never fully pay for work in advance of its completion.

If any of your service providers, such as your care providers or landlords, increase their charges, get an explanation in writing. By formally documenting their excuses you may discourage them from defrauding you at the risk of their losing their business license or facing other legal repercussions. No criminal wants to get caught.

Place your name and telephone number(s) including cell phone number(s) on the Do Not Call Registry. Do not accept services from solicitors. You do not have the time to effectively establish the validity of their offer on the spot.

If You Suspect Elder and Dependent Adult Financial Fraud

Elder victims of fraud often feel embarrassed and betrayed, particularly if it is a situation involving a family member or business transaction gone awry. Many victims will not report fraud due to shame or fear. Fraud, regardless of whether it is a trusted family member or a complete stranger, is a crime and you have a right to defend yourself and you are protected by the law. Here are some tips to help.

If you feel that you are in imminent physical danger, contact your local police department and/or the adult protective services.

If you find unauthorized financial activity, or believe that your authorization for specific financial activity has been abused, contact your financial institution immediately. Ideally, visit your local branch in person and ask to speak to a supervisor. If it is a credit company, call their customer service line and have them forward your call to their fraud department and/or a supervisor.

Bank of the West has specific policies and procedures for handling potential Financial Elder and Dependent Adult Abuse. You will find our bank representatives to be understanding and sensitive to your situation. Do not hesitate to contact us if you have any concerns.

Try to gather as much information together as you can so that the proper authorities can quickly investigate your case. Some information you might want to gather includes:

  • All of your legal documents specifying who has authorization to access your accounts and to what extent.
  • A list of your regular expenses and sources of income prepared so that an institution representative can quickly look for suspicious activity.
  • Reconciliations of your statements of all to your financial accounts to make sure the fraud has not affected them.

Elder and Dependent Adult Financial Fraud Contacts

Bank of the West
Customer Service: (800) 488-BANK (2265)*
Report suspicious emails: abuse@bankofthewest.com

Adult Protective Services
Each county has an APS agency offering services to any elder or dependent adult regardless of income. This link will take you to a website that contains a listing of the contact numbers for the APS agency near you.
http://www.cdss.ca.gov/agedblinddisabled/PG1298.htm

Police Department
In an emergency dial 911 regardless of your location. For a listing police departments in your area follow this link.
http://www.usprocessservice.org/police.htm

Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
The FTC has educational information specific to seniors as well as a fraud reporting system. It also manages the Do Not Call Registry.

Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580
(202) 326-2222
http://www.ftc.gov

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Report Fraud, Identity Theft or Suspicious Activity

If you believe you are the victim of fraud or identity theft, call Bank of the West immediately at 1-800-488-2265.

To report a lost or stolen credit card, call us at 1-800-996-2638.

If you've received a suspicious email, let us know by emailing us at:
abuse@bankofthewest.com

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