Understand how to stay safer by taking steps to secure your finances, knowing if a fraudster is targeting you, and resolving a case of fraud should you become a victim.
Think about new acquaintances
How did this person enter your life, and what are they getting out of this friendship? Also think about, where’s this person from, what’s their job, and who are their friends or family?
A common trick of fraudsters is to befriend you and slowly gain your trust. In time, you may ask this new friend to come with you to the bank, or to help you order new checks. By gaining your trust and access to your finances, they may empty your accounts without your knowledge. Or, they may make you rely on them and threaten not to help you or harm you to get your money.
Discourage would-be fraudsters by having a secure financial plan in place. Plan ahead for any daily assistance you may need.
Legal and financial advice
Unfortunately, many elder and dependent adult financial fraud cases involve family members. To help protect yourself, don’t give only one person control of your finances to avoid being totally dependent on them.
If you need assistance, see an attorney about setting up a trust and a Power of Attorney, which will name a person you know and trust to manage your affairs if you’re incapable. The person you name may be an attorney, a family member, or a friend. Once done, you will need to provide Bank of the West a copy of the document. In addition, be sure to notify us if you make any changes to it.
Take every request for your signature very seriously. If you’re signing a document, read the fine print and ask any questions. If you’re unsure, consult with an attorney before you sign. Also, sign your own checks and never sign blank checks for anyone.
If you’re signing over money or property in exchange for your care, require a written agreement and have the agreement reviewed by your attorney.
When seeking financial help, ask more than one source to be sure that you get an objective opinion. If you have any questions, ask your banker or an attorney for help.
Have all of your financial instructions in writing and have them reviewed by your attorney. Inform the people you trust that you have financial instructions in writing and keep those documents in a safe place. Your attorney can offer you advice on how best to proceed.
Contractors, merchants, landlords and others
It’s not uncommon for seniors to be tricked into paying higher prices for goods or even paying for services they never asked for. Even if you declined unsolicited offers by phone, in person or email, the goods may appear along with a bill. Before signing up for any service, get a written agreement and read it thoroughly. If you’re approached with unsolicited services, it’s best to say no.
A contractor may raise the price of work after starting the job. Before hiring a contractor, check the validity of their contractor's license. Never pay for work in advance or before it’s finished.
A landlord may increase the monthly rent without following the proper legal procedures. If your landlord or any of your care providers increase their rates, ask for an explanation in writing. By formally documenting their requested rate increase you may discourage them from trying to defraud you. They may risk losing their business license or face other legal consequences.
And don’t forget to place your name, land line and mobile phone numbers on the Do Not Call Registry.
To educate yourself on the various fraud scams, read through the ID Theft and Internet Scam sections on this website.
Elder victims of fraud often feel embarrassed and betrayed, particularly if it's involving a family member or a business transaction. Many victims will not report fraud due to shame or fear. Whether you're victimized by a family member or a stranger, fraud is a crime. You have a right to defend yourself and be protected by the law. Here are some tips to help:
- If you feel that you're in physical danger, contact law enforcement and/or Adult Protective Services
- If you find unauthorized financial activity, or believe that your authorization for specific financial transactions has been abused, contact your bank immediately. Visit your local branch in person and ask to speak to a supervisor. If it's a credit company, call their customer service number and have them forward your call to their Fraud Department and/or a supervisor
- Bank of the West has specific policies and procedures for handling Financial Elder and Dependent Adult Abuse. Don't hesitate to contact us
- Collect as much information as you can so that the proper authorities can quickly investigate your case. This information might include:
- All of your legal documents specifying who has the authority to access your accounts and to what extent
- A list of your regular expenses and sources of income so that a representative can quickly look for suspicious activity
- Statements for all of your financial accounts to make sure the fraud has not affected them
Bank of the West
Customer Service: 1-800-488-2265
Report suspicious emails: email@example.com
Adult protective services
For local APS agencies: https://ncea.acl.gov/Resources/State.aspx
For local law enforcement: http://www.usprocessservice.org/police.htm
Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
The FTC has information specific to seniors as well as a fraud reporting system. It also manages the Do Not Call Registry.
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580
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Note: Bank of the West has branches only in the states listed in the drop-down. At this time, we only open accounts for individuals and businesses in these states.