Jefferson City, Mo. — In recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft warns Missourians that heightened isolation and loneliness during the COVID-19 pandemic have created a perfect storm for senior financial exploitation.
“Social isolation has long been one of the leading factors contributing to the financial exploitation of older investors and the unprecedented stay-home orders to protect against the spread of the novel coronavirus have taken social isolation to a new dimension for many seniors, making them more vulnerable to financial exploitation,” Ashcroft said.
While financial abuse can happen at any time, perpetrators often strike during times in a senior’s life when they may be more vulnerable, such as during a health crisis or after the death of a loved one. Scammers often gather personal details from obituaries and social media posts and use this information to target their victims. Some even will exploit trust within seniors’ social and support groups to become more involved in their lives.
What to Watch For
Senior financial exploitation can be difficult to identify or recognize. The Secretary of State’s Securities Division gives these five examples of warning signs to watch for among the seniors in your lives:
- A new and overly protective friend or caregiver or surrendering control of finances to a new friend or partner.
- Fear or sudden change in feelings about somebody.
- A lack of knowledge about financial status or reluctance to discuss financial matters.
- Sudden or unexplained changes in spending habits, a will, trust, or beneficiary designations.
- Unexplained checks made out to cash, unexplained loans, or unexplained disappearance of assets (cash, valuables, securities, etc.). Watch for suspicious signatures on the senior’s checks or other documents.
How You Can Help
- Contact. While in-person visits may not be possible yet, be sure to keep in touch with older family members, friends, and neighbors. Call or leave a note on their front door. If they have the technology, send them a text or email, or contact them via Facetime, Skype, Zoom or other video apps. Contact is key to letting your loved ones know you are thinking of them.
- Inform. Let your older family members know that fraudsters and scammers have found ways to exploit the pandemic. Make them aware of the red flags of fraud, which remain consistent regardless of the fraud or scam.
- Act. Ashcroft asks anyone with suspicions of possible senior financial exploitation to contact the Securities Division by calling the Investor Protection Hotline at (800) 721-7996 or visit www.missouriprotectsinvestors.com.