Is financial abuse happening to YOUR clients right now? Of course it is. There is no escaping it. A recent study puts the amount stolen from elders every year in our country at over $36B. With a problem as big as this, no group of elders is immune.. If you took a survey of your existing clients all age 65 or older, and asked them how many have ever been taken advantage of financially, you would be sure to get some clients who would admit to this. If you look at your own experience and count up any instance you know of, whether it is in your family, your neighborhood or your book of business, you will likely find some financial abuse as well.
Why Is This Important for You?
The amounts stolen, fraudulently taken or just snatched from the unwary, are shocking. Remember that when your client loses assets, you lose fees. That is the most basic reason this should be important to you as a financial professional. Doing the right thing to keep your clients safe is certainly a motivator as well. It shows that you do care about them. And beyond that, the regulators are increasingly aware that financial professionals are in a position to take action and, sometimes, to stop and prevent financial abuse. They will soon get past merely urging you to take action and to report abuse. They will ultimately make it mandatory.
And we think you can do more proactively than merely to understand how to report abuse after the fact. It would be great to catch more criminals but that is extremely difficult in many cases because they are very clever at evading law enforcement. And since family members are the most frequent abusers, we have an added problem in that many elders are reluctant to report abuse by their own to law enforcement. Mom just won’t call Adult Protective Services on her son, even when she knows he has stolen from her. We have seen this with our own eyes There are many instances of scammers getting into relationships with aging folks by phone or on the internet. The “friendly” relationships become addictive. These thieves persuade the victim to withdraw funds from their accounts. This is where the advisor comes in. Unusual withdrawals are an important warning sign of elder abuse. And when the advisor notices this in a client’s account there are choices available about stopping abuse. They include contacting a trusted other the elder has identified and warning them of what is happening. There should be more than one trusted person identified for every client. And by all means, contact Adult Protective Services and report it if you suspect fraud.
If you are worried about privacy rules, don’t be. The regulators of your industry want you to report abuse. They want you to make every effort to keep aging clients financially safer. If you are not sure about privacy, we can help you create a special privacy document here at AgingInvestor.com that gives you permission to call that third party. Every advisor with any client over age 65 should have this and understand how to approach a client about signing it. With permission like this, you should never hesitate to tell APS and the trusted other that you are concerned about your client being financially manipulated.
You can get more details about this elder abuse issue and what you can do as an advisor in Succeed With Senior Clients: A Financial Advisor’s Guide to Best Practices. See particularly the chapter “Financial Elder Abuse: How You Can Fight the Crime of the Century“. It’s available right now so click HERE to get your copy today.
by Carolyn Rosenblatt, RN, Elder law attorney, AgingInvestor.com