Consumer Publications List
Is Your Money
Safe? Protect Yourself Against Financial Exploitation
Ms. B was a
frail 83-year-old woman who allowed a "caregiver" to move into a room of her
home in exchange for care provided. Within several months, Ms. B's daughter
discovered that thousands of dollars had been withdrawn with Ms. B's ATM card.
The "caregiver" also took Ms. B to an attorney and obtained power of attorney
for herself. She took $5,600 from Ms. B's accounts before the daughter learned
of the activity.
Mr. H was an
80-year-old man who lived alone. A young woman befriended him. She would usually
visit him around the first of the month when his social security and pension
checks arrived. His daughter noticed that Mr. H. began being short of money. It
turned out that the young woman was accompanying Mr. H to the bank and filling
out withdrawal slips for him, then taking the money.
Ms. K paid rent
to live in someone else's home. A healthcare worker who provided services for
her discovered that Ms. K was being pressured to write a $30,000 check and wire
it to her roommate/landlord's bank account. By paying this money, Ms. K was
supposed to become a one-third owner of the property. However, she would still
have to pay $350 per month in rent and agree, that upon her death, the property
would revert in full back to the original owner. The roommate was threatening
Ms. K that she would become homeless or have to go into a nursing home if she
did not pay.
Financial Exploitation?Financial exploitation is the illegal or
improper use of another person's resources for personal profit. Many people,
especially vulnerable adults who lack the physical or mental capacity to provide
for their own daily needs, have been financially exploited not only by con
artists who were strangers, but also by people they knew - paid caregivers,
neighbors, even relatives. In fact, relatives are the most frequent exploiters.
financial exploitation include: making unauthorized withdrawals from a bank
account; cashing checks that should have been deposited; forging a person's
signature; having a person establish a joint banking account, then taking large
sums of money out of it; and tricking a person with a memory problem into
writing multiple checks for the same purpose.
can be confusing. If you have questions or need assistance, ask for help from
your bank, a trusted family member, clergy member, social worker or other
professional. If you suspect that a vulnerable adult has been financially
exploited, call the Maryland Department of Human Resources at 1-800-917-7383.
Can Do to Avoid ProblemsDocument financial arrangements. By putting
financial arrangements in writing, you not only protect yourself but you also
reduce the likelihood of future misunderstandings of legal proceedings. Put all
financial instructions in writing and be specific. Keep complete financial
records of all transactions. Put all financial documents in a safe place.
Don't give away
property. Before you enter into an agreement for lifelong care, discuss the
arrangement with a trusted friend or advisor. Document the agreement and specify
the compensation, if there is any, paid to the caregiver. If there is someone
helping you with your personal finances, get a trusted third party to review
your bank statement.
Get to know your
banker, attorney and financial consultant. Establish relationships with the
professionals who handle your money. They can help detect changes in your
financial activity that may signal a problem.
Be cautious of
joint accounts. Both parties are equal owners of the account and both have equal
access to the money. Ask your bank about alternatives like a convenience account
or Power of Attorney account, which allow others to do banking for you, but do
not make them co-owners of anything in the account.
compensation clause in any power of attorney. Before you assign a power of
attorney, be sure you understand the scope of the agreement and the authority
you are giving to your agent. Know the person to whom you are giving this
authority, and, most importantly, make sure you have absolute faith in their
integrity. Also, specify the compensation, if any, to be paid to your agent.
active. Social isolation increases your risk of becoming a victim of abuse.
Become familiar with the many programs in your community designed to bring
people together and to help elderly people and their families.
These tips will
help you protect your money:
Get HelpTo report suspected financial exploitation of a vulnerable
adult, call the Maryland Department of Human Resources at 1-800-917-7383 Monday
through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Department will contact Adult Protective
Services in the appropriate county, which will investigate. You can make such a
call completely anonymously. If you choose to give your identity, your identity
will still be kept confidential.
Maryland Attorney General's Consumer Protection
DivisionConsumer hotline: (410) 528-8662 or 1 (888) 743-0023 toll-free
200 St. Paul Place, Baltimore, MD 21202
410-576-6300 / 1-888-743-0023 toll-free / TDD: 410-576-6372