Imagine receiving an email that says you’ve won a new washer and dryer in a local contest. All you have to do is pay a small shipping fee to receive your appliances. Sounds great, right?
Unfortunately, this scenario has multiple signs of financial exploitation.
Financial exploitation occurs when someone illegally or improperly gains the assets of a vulnerable person through a scam. It may also happen through theft, deception, intimidation, or undue influence. According to the Federal Trade Commission, scammers stole nearly $3.3 billion in 2020.* Con artists have numerous—often believable—methods to trick people out of money. They may set up a fake dating profile, then ask for money for “emergencies.” Some impersonate government agencies, like the IRS, and threaten to arrest the victim unless they pay a fee. Retirees are often targeted because of their accumulated wealth, but scammers seek out people of all ages.
Read details of common scams.
We’re here to educate you on financial exploitation and help you protect your assets.
While each scam is different, there are common red flags that signal a request is fake, such as:
To protect your assets, create a plan while you’re in good health. Start by talking to a trusted family member, professional, or friend about your wishes for your finances. Naming a trusted contact on your account can offer additional protection by:
We recommend selecting someone who will be able to provide an informed assessment of your whereabouts, well-being, and health status. Also, consider naming someone who can’t transact on your accounts to help ensure objectivity. If you haven’t already, consider working with an attorney to create a financial power of attorney.
Scammers often target the elderly, teens, and the mentally incapacitated. To keep your at-risk loved ones safe, look for warning signs like:
If you believe your loved one has been a victim of financial exploitation, contact their financial institutions immediately. Also consider filing a report with local law enforcement or Adult Protective Services. If your loved one is already incapacitated and didn’t execute a financial power of attorney, consult with an estate planning attorney to discuss options such as petitioning the court for guardianship or conservatorship.
Follow these best practices for avoiding potential scams:
Anyone could become a victim of financial exploitation. Even sadder, it can happen at the hands of a family member, friend, or caregiver. We want to help you stay in control and support you as you care for vulnerable loved ones. Protecting your hard-earned investments is why we’re here.
All investing is subject to risk, including the possible loss of the money you invest.
Please note that trusted contacts are not applicable to 403(b) accounts, most 529 accounts, annuities, and institutional accounts.