As financial exploitation targeting older adults continues to become more prevalent, the Area Agency on Aging Region 9 joined a nationwide campaign to encourage older adults and their families to address the issue and to become informed about the warning signs and resources available to help prevent abuse. Research shows that as many as 5 million older adults are victims of elder abuse each year and financial exploitation costs seniors an estimated $3 billion annually.

As part of its 10th Annual Home for the Holidays campaign, the Eldercare Locator, a public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging that is administered by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a), is encouraging older adults, caregivers and their families to use their time together this holiday season to discuss and look for ways to prevent financial exploitation.

There are several signs of financial exploitation for families to look out for, including financial activity that is inconsistent with an older adults past financial history; confusion about recent financial arrangements; changes to key documents that have not been authorized; and an older adult who feels threatened by a caregiver or another individual who is seeking to control their finances. Unfortunately, financial exploitation is often committed by a person you know and trust, which makes it even more difficult, said Sandy Markwood, CEO, n4a. If there are signs or suspicion of financial exploitation it should be reported to Adult Protective Services through their County Department of Job and Family Services.

Financial exploitation is a threat to the health, safety, dignity and independence of vulnerable older adults, said Kathy Greenlee, Administrator, Administration for Community Living and Assistant Secretary for 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.

Here are some 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 www.stopfraud.gov/protect.html.

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

Do not provide personal information (i.e. Social Security number, credit card, ATM PIN number) over the phone unless you placed the call and know with whom you are speaking.