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Preventing financial exploitation of seniors a difficult but necessary discussion

Published: Saturday, Dec. 1 2012 4:50 p.m. MST

"Considering that only 1 in 10 cases is ever reported, this cost could potentially reach $8.8 million," the report stated. 

Though the subject matter is sensitive, not having the conversation can result in financial devastation for a senior and painful divisions in a family.

“Financial exploitation is a threat to the health, safety, dignity and independence of vulnerable older adults,” said Kathy Greenlee, administrator of the federal Administration for Community Living and assistant secretary for the Administration on Aging.

“This holiday season, we encourage families to spend some time asking older family members some basic questions to ensure that their finances are in good hands, and that if there are signs of abuse, that the right steps are taken to stop it.”

One way to ease into the conversation is for family members to give aging relatives a copy of "Navigating Your Rights: The Utah Legal Guide for those 55 and Over." 

The book, written by Gunther, is free. It is available through through the Utah Division of Aging and Adult Services by calling 801-538-3910 or 877-424-4640 or by visiting legalguide55.utah.gov. The book is also available at public libraries and senior centers.

Tips to help prevent financial exploitation

Get an estate plan in place. Talk with an attorney about creating a durable power of attorney for asset management, a living will, a revocable or living trust, and health care advance directives.

Learn how to avoid fraud and scams at StopFraud.gov.

Consult with a trusted person before making any large purchases or investments.

Do not provide personal information — such as Social Security, credit card or ATM PIN numbers — over the phone unless you placed the call and know with whom you are speaking.

If you hire someone to help you in your home, make sure they have been properly screened with criminal background checks completed. Ask for certifications when appropriate.

Source: U.S. Administration on Aging.

A pocket guide with more information on avoiding financial explotation is available from National Association of Area Agencies on Aging.

E-mail: marjorie@desnews.com

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