How to Recognize and Prevent Financial Abuse When You’re Retired

Do you suspect someone of trying to take financial advantage of you?

Financial abuse happens when someone misuses your funds and assets without your full knowledge or consent, or makes financial decisions for you that aren’t in your best interest. Sadly, financial exploitation of retirees and the elderly often happens at the hands of loved ones. A recent report found 40% of financial abuse incidents in Canada were perpetrated by family members.

You worked hard for your money. You’re entitled to protected your personal wealth for the long-term and enjoy it in your retirement.  Learning about the signs of financial abuse and what you can do about it can help you protect yourself from this situation. Here are some tips on how to recognize and prevent financial abuse when you’re retired.

Understand Your Own Finances

Knowledge is power. Organize your financial statements so you can find them easily. Refer to them often so you’re familiar with your own money matters, and it will be easier to spot potential problems like money missing from bank accounts. Your finances include:

  • Investments
  • Bank accounts
  • Insurance policies
  • Bills and credit card statements
  • Pension
  • Will and power of attorney documents
  • Title/deed to real estate and vehicles

Recognize the Signs of Financial Abuse From a Loved One

Financial abuse often begins in a small way. Some signs of financial abuse may include:

  1. Someone close to you shopping with your credit card and not paying you back
  2. Accessing your bank account without your knowledge to withdraw funds
  3. Taking and cashing your pension cheques
  4. Selling your possessions without giving you the sale proceeds
  5. Living in your home without contributing towards the costs and/or upkeep
  6. Pressuring you to make purchases you don’t want
  7. Bullying/pressuring you into changing your will to their benefit
  8. Preventing you from getting professional financial advice
  9. Preventing you from spending your money on things of your choosing
  10. Trying to isolate you from your regular circle of family and friend

If you’ve experienced one or more of these behaviors, you may be the victim of financial abuse.

Choose Your Financial Power of Attorney Carefully

Retirees and the elderly often appoint a power of attorney to oversee their finances.

A continuing financial power of attorney is a legal document that gives a trusted person financial authority over some or all of your finances and property if you become mentally incapable of making your own financial decisions. It does not have to be your child or a family member.

Choose someone who lives nearby, who has demonstrated good financial sense, and who will act in your best financial interest should the time come when you can’t make your own financial decisions.

Be Cautious About Sharing Personal Information

Financial abuse doesn’t just happen at the hands of someone close to you. Fraudsters may target retirees and the elderly as easy marks for identity theft and fraud through telephone scams. Protect yourself against this type of abuse by guarding your personal information carefully.

Don’t share any identification information over the phone. This includes your driver’s license number, passport number, Social Insurance Number, bank account numbers and PIN (personal identification numbers) or passwords. Avoid clicking on links within emails that appear to be from banks, the government, or insurance companies as they could send you to phony sites set up to steal your personal information.

It can be difficult to admit you’re suffering financial abuse in retirement, yet it’s important to take action to protect yourself and your finances if you are.

For more information about financial abuse and other forms of elder abuse, visit the Province of Ontario Information About Elder Abuse site.
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