We all know how important it is to safeguard our health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of us have even taken extra steps to make sure there is no reason for anyone to contest a will or trust if the worst comes to pass. What we don’t often think about, however, is the financial abuse that can happen during times of uncertainty. Would-be financial abusers look at crises as opportunities. It is important now, more than ever, to make sure your loved ones are taking steps to avoid elder financial abuse.
One of the best things abusers can hope for is to instill a sense of urgency about what they are offering and the information potential victims need to give them in return. People presenting legitimate opportunities don’t often feel the need to make others rush. No one should be hurried into a decision they are uncertain about, especially when their money or personal assets are involved. If a loved one is feeling pressure to make a decision hastily, advise them to step back from the situation and give themselves room to make a more thorough assessment.
Most of us know never to give out personal information if prompted to do so by an untrusted source, but clicking on links attached to emails or texts that come seemingly out of the blue can be just as dangerous, even if they look like they’re coming from someone familiar. Abusers may entice potential victims to visit sites or download malicious files that can steal login credentials and other sensitive information. During this time in particular, many fraudulent offers claim to sell coronavirus detection systems, cures, or vaccines. Know that right now, no such viable devices or cures are available to the public, so if someone is offering them for purchase, it’s best to disconnect.
Before making a purchase or donating to a charity or other organization, make sure you and your loved one feel confident that the organization is above-board. Do all the facts align? Is there information about the product, service, or organization on other more reputable sites? The Federal Trade Commission recommends typing the specific situation or company (i.e. “IRS call”) into your favorite search engine with the words “review,” “complaint, or “scam.” The search should quickly reveal whether the circumstances in question are indicative of a fraudulent situation that others have already reported.
If the offer your loved one is contemplating is legitimate, there will be more than enough time to do adequate research on the opportunity and act on it later. An established circle of family members, friends, or advisors is an excellent resource for those feeling uneasy about a situation’s trustworthiness. Make sure your loved one knows that they can reach out to you or other designated people to ask questions or get a second opinion.
Despite our best efforts, sometimes cases of elder financial abuse still happen. If you suspect that you or someone you love is a victim of financial abuse, contact us at (949) 753-9100 to speak with our team about your situation.