Iowa Insurance Division Recognizes World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

Written by Theresa Rose on June 12, 2018

Des Moines, Iowa – In recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15, the Iowa Insurance Division is reminding financial professionals and all Iowans to be on the lookout for the red flags of suspected financial abuse of seniors, including potential abuse by those overseeing their financial matters.

“It is very important for Iowans to choose the right person to be trusted with their decision-making powers.  It is not a decision that they should take lightly or be pressured into,” Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen said.  “Oftentimes a trusted family member or friend can be called upon to fill this role, however, it’s important Iowans have someone who will put their wishes first, despite what their family or friends might later ask for or try to impose.”

An individual can grant an agent a power of attorney and a court can appoint a conservatorship or guardianship powers to make decisions related to the individual’s health care decisions or financial matters.   Financial abuse occurs when those decision-making powers are improperly used to take advantage of the protected individual’s financial assets.

Suspected signs of elder financial abuse include:

  • Using delegated authority to transfer property for the benefit of the agent, guardian or conservator.
  • Receiving personal payments from a protected individual without permission.
  • Authorizing frequent cash withdrawals from the protected individual’s accounts without explanation.
  • Using or borrowing property for personal benefit without permission.
  • Making unexplained decisions that are not in the protected individual’s best interest.

“As I often mention at Iowa Fraud Fighters events around the state, fraudsters target seniors because that is where the money is.  Older Iowans have earned and saved their entire lives. Now they have a nest egg to provide for themselves and scammers want to get their hands on those resources for their own gain,” Ommen said.  “Fraudsters often target seniors for financial exploitation because they may be isolated from family, caregivers, and other support networks. I encourage older Iowans to know they are not alone. There are resources, including the Iowa Insurance Division, available to help and it’s important for those of us in our communities to understand the red flags that may indicate that a person is being financially abused.”

Congress also recently passed the Senior Safe Act in a bipartisan manner to encourage reporting financial abuse by financial professionals.

“I’m thankful that recently Congress passed and the President signed a federal law, S. 2155, to help ensure that financial professionals who in good faith and using reasonable care are immune from liability for reporting suspected financial abuse.  This law allows individuals who are on the front lines serving Iowans to say something when they see something that they know isn’t right,” Ommen said. “The financial abuse being reported could be scams that involve withdrawals of money that are out of the ordinary, new friends or relatives hovering or acting coercively, or even wiring funds to fake relatives supposedly “stranded” in foreign countries.  Regardless of what scam is attempting to be perpetrated, financial professionals should be allowed to use common sense to help our fellow Iowans.”

The North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), of which the Iowa Insurance Division is a member, recently developed a helpful resource titled “The Red Flags of Guardian Financial Abuse” at serveourseniors.org to help call attention to the red flags of suspected elder financial abuse.

Iowans wanting to report elder financial abuse or learn more about how to protect themselves and others from fraudsters and different types of scams can visit iowafraudfighters.gov.

Iowans that are at least 18 years old and have no appropriate or responsible person available to serve as a substitute decision maker or that are without adequate resources to compensate a substitute decision maker can also visit with the Office of Substitute Decision Maker for more information and assistance at https://www.iowaaging.gov/programs-services/elder-justice-adult-protective-services/office-substitute-decision-maker.