This Summer Keep your Lawn and Your Banks Account Green and Healthy
~ By Gerald Rome, Colorado Securities Commissioner ~
The Colorado legislature recently passed a bill making reporting of suspected elder financial exploitation mandatory for Colorado professionals who work for financial firms. If financial professionals see “red flags” of senior fraud, they now must report it to us. Regulators, law enforcement, and human services departments regularly see these issues, and know the devastating effect that financial crimes have on their victims. We believe this is a significant step in our fight against elder financial abuse. However, the solution to this issue involves all of us, and we can’t just rely on financial professional to spot signs of trouble. In order to help prevent becoming a victim of fraud or exploitation, we recommend the following:
1) “Don’t talk to strangers.” This applies to solicitors who call on the phone or go door to door. As a general rule, don’t answer the phone if it is a number you don’t recognize, be sure that your registration on the National Do Not Call List is up to date. Most importantly, if you do speak to someone who calls or rings your doorbell, NEVER give out personal information, regardless of who the person claims to be. Always verify the source. Take some time to think over a proposal or sales pitch before making any snap decisions. It’s also a good idea to call someone, whether it be a family member or our office (our number is below) to discuss whether something sounds like it may be fraudulent.
2) Review your account statements. I wrote about this a few months ago and cannot stress it enough. If you notice anything that doesn’t seem right, contact your financial institution, credit card issuer, or other provider immediately. Additionally be sure to check your credit report at least annually from each of the three main credit bureaus.
3) Be cautious about who you trust with your money, even if it is family. It can be an awkward conversation to have, but if you don’t fully trust that a person has your total financial well-being in mind, do not give them access to your financial accounts or Power of Attorney. If you need help with financial matters, find someone you trust completely, be it a family member or other provider, and still monitor your accounts and stay apprised of every transaction.
4) Finally, be on guard against scams! Most types of financial fraud and scams rely on an emotional response rather than a rational one to get you on the hook. If you receive mail telling you about a huge financial windfall, check your excitement at the prospect long enough to consider how unlikely that is. If you answer a phone call that claims there’s a warrant out for your arrest because of unpaid taxes, quell your panic for a moment to remember that the IRS or law enforcement would never contact you by phone for such matters. The more alert and aware you are, the safer you will be.
Of course, if you have questions about any possible scam, fraud, exploitative action, or financial business in Colorado, give DORA a call on our Senior Consumer Hotline at (720) 593-6720. While we cannot give out legal advice, and cannot recommend or refer any particular person or business, we can recommend resources, take complaints, and provide an ear for any concerns you may have.