When people experience circumstances that make them vulnerable, they may be more likely to fall victim to financial exploitation. Unfortunately, abusers are often trusted family and friends.
Below are some of the more common circumstances that may cause someone to become vulnerable:
- social isolation
- dependence on another to provide care
- financially responsible for adult child or spouse
- alcohol or drug abuse
- depression or mental illness
Registrants can be in a unique position to notice signs of financial exploitation, vulnerability, or diminished mental capacity because of the interactions they have with their clients and the knowledge they acquire through the client relationship.
When a person is vulnerable, you may sometimes see red flags, which could indicate they are subject to financial exploitation. Registrants can take the following steps when they notice signs of financial exploitation, vulnerability, or diminished mental capacity.
Reach out to the client who may need assistance: Sometimes people feel that because the person being victimized hasn’t reported the abuse, they don’t want help. Because those who perpetrate financial abuse of older adults are often adult children, relatives, family friends, trusted caregivers or advisors, the person may resist seeking assistance. Here are some questions to help you start the conversation with your client:
- We find that some adults worry about money; may I ask you a few questions about this?
- Does someone help you manage your money day-to-day?
- Do you run out of money at the end of the month?
- Do you regret or worry about financial decisions you’ve recently made?
- Have you given power of attorney to another person?
- Have you felt pressured to change your will?
Engage with other organizations: Become familiar with the role of organizations in the province who assist older adults and those who may be vulnerable. Knowing where to refer your clients or seek help in advance of seeing signs of financial exploitation can help save time and may safeguard your client’s money.
Visit Seeking Help for Financial Abuse for a list of government and advocacy organizations where you can report financial abuse or seek help for vulnerable individuals who lack capacity to handle their financial affairs.
Educate: Educate yourself and your employees so they are knowledgeable and can recognize the red flags of fraud and signs of financial exploitation. If you are providing advice and services to older adults, learn how to interact respectfully and appropriately with those who may have unique needs especially when discussing issues of financial exploitation or diminished capacity. Ensure employees are aware of internal policies and how to escalate concerns should they suspect their client may be a victim of financial exploitation.