Financial scams come in all shapes and sizes. Fraudsters have become more sophisticated in their schemes and they don't discriminate with respect to the age of their victims. The good news is that there are steps families can take to prevent and recognize fraud. With advanced planning and diligent monitoring, you can safeguard your own finances, your family's finances and prevent the time, expense and emotional distress associated with being victimized.
Liz Loewy, general counsel for EverSafe and former chief of the Elder Abuse Unit in the Manhattan D.A.’s office, is no stranger to financial fraud and its devastating impact on family members.
We talked with her about how you can best protect your family’s financial well-being.
Q: What exactly is a financial caregiver and what are their responsibilities?
A: About 18.5 million family members now serve as financial caregivers in the U.S. These folks have taken on the responsibility of managing money or property for loved ones who may not be fully capable of making sound financial decisions on their own.
This may involve paying bills, assisting with taxes, keeping an eye on their use of a new credit card, making decisions on investment accounts or guarding against identity theft. Keeping up with this responsibility for an entire family is an enormous challenge. If the caregiver has a professional life of his or her own, and doesn't live with or near these loved ones, it's an almost impossible task.
Q: What is financial fraud and why should I be worried about it?
A: Essentially, financial fraud is defined as exploitation, usually involving deception and motivated by personal gain. Anyone can be at risk for fraud because it usually starts small and is difficult to detect.
Financial fraud has been called a "silent epidemic," largely because of the vast numbers of folks who do not, or cannot, report their experience to authorities. Some have been exploited by a family member-which for many, can be embarrassing to admit. And younger adult victims may not be as savvy about scams and what they should be looking out for with respect to identity theft and erratic financial activity.
Often times, financial services professionals can't see the whole picture. Because of privacy laws, they aren't able to communicate with each other about suspicious activity associated with a single customer's account. And sophisticated scammers understand this; they're good at flying under the radar, often stealing across a customer's financial accounts and credit cards.
Q: For busy people who may be managing not only their own finances and wellness, but also that of their spouses and loved ones, what is your number one recommendation for financial protection?
A: My number one recommendation for people who want to protect their own and their family members’ finances is to be diligent about monitoring.
A solution? Technology.
Software is a terrific tool for meeting the challenges of financial caregiving. EverSafe is one such example. It’s a digital service for caregivers that enables them to monitor loved ones’ financial accounts, credit cards and their credit reports daily for any signs of suspicious activity or identity theft. Caregivers, as well as EverSafe members, receive alerts and can view family members’ financial activity—all in one place.
Q: Is protecting yourself from financial fraud something only senior-aged individuals need to worry about?
A: This is something I am asked a lot, and my answer is always the same: absolutely not.
Individuals of any age can be defrauded. And although research has shown that nearly one in five seniors has been the victim of some type of fraud, exploiters don’t rule out targeting younger adults. In fact, adults between 18 and 24 are one of the groups most vulnerable to identity theft. About 30 percent of identity theft reports came from this age group in a 2006 study . The bottom line is that scammers have become increasingly sophisticated in their schemes. Older people, college-age young adults and middle-age folks are all at risk of become the unwitting victims of fraud.
Autora: Stephanie Sample
May 16, 2017