, the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance (TDCI) is warning seniors and their families to be on the lookout for signs of elder financial abuse, including potential exploitation by guardians.
Tennessee’s older adults are oftentimes the targets of scammers, financial con artists, bad actors and other abusers intent on causing them harm or stealing their financial resources and dignity.
Every year, an estimated one in 10 older Americans are victims of elder abuse, neglect or exploitation. Research suggests that as few as one in 14 cases of elder abuse come to the attention of authorities. The Government Accountability Oﬃce recently estimated that seniors lose an estimated $2.9 billion annually nationwide to an ever-growing array of financial exploitation schemes and scams.
To help draw attention to the importance of protecting senior Tennesseans, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has proclaimed Tuesday, June 15, 2021, as Elder Abuse Awareness Day. In support of Governor Lee’s proclamation, TDCI is joining other state departments to highlight the importance of learning the red flags of fraud and elder abuse and the steps senior Tennesseans and their guardians can take to prevent abuse.
“I am proud to join Governor Lee to highlight the importance of protecting the dignity and financial independence of Tennessee’s elder population on Elder Abuse Awareness Day,” said TDCI Commissioner Carter Lawrence. “Consumers who have questions when it comes to investments or insurance policies should contact our team so that we might provide assistance.”
To assist consumers and raise awareness about elder abuse and fraud, TDCI provides the following resources for seniors and their families.
TDCI urges consumers to be on the lookout for signs of elder financial abuse, including potential exploitation by guardians.
A guardian, whether publicly funded or privately appointed, has a legal obligation to act in the best interest of a protected individual. Guardians often are granted extensive access and control of a protected individual’s assets.
Financial abuse or exploitation by guardians could occur if the guardian improperly uses the protected individual’s funds, securities, property or other assets.
To assist seniors, the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), of which TDCI’s Securities Division is a member, has developed resources to help call attention to the red flags of fraud and suspected guardian financial abuse.
The NASAA’s “Guarding the Guardians” publication provides examples of exploitation and information on how to report suspected elder financial abuse. Examples of suspected guardian abuse include:
- The guardian takes money from the protected individual’s investment portfolio to buy a new car for personal use.
- The guardian overcharges for a caregiving service, such as billing the estate hourly for wait time to file paperwork in-person when it could have been submitted online.
- The guardian does not take the protected individual to medical appointments or purchase their necessary medication.
The publication as well as other resources to help seniors are available on NASAA’s “Serve Our Seniors” website.
Identity Theft Prevention Tips
- Never buy an insurance policy, make an investment or give money to a stranger who calls or visits unannounced.
- Shred all paperwork containing any identifying information, healthcare information, banking information or passwords.
- Monitor bank and credit card statements.
- Monitor your credit report.
- Use direct deposit for benefit checks to prevent checks from being stolen.
- Never give your credit card, banking, Social Security number, Medicare number or other personal information over the phone, unless you initiated the call.
- If someone calls you and threatens you with arrest or harm unless you pay them via wire transfer or a gift card, hang up immediately. You’re dealing with a scammer. Report the call to your local law enforcement agency.
If you suspect that you or a loved one might be a victim of securities or insurance fraud, or if you would like to file a complaint or speak with an investigator, please contact the Tennessee Securities Division – Financial Services Investigations Unit at (615) 741-5900 or visit our website.
Other types of elder abuse involving abuse, neglect or exploitation should be reported to the Tennessee Department of Human Services, Adult Protective Services Unit by phone at (888) 277-8366 or online.