Keeping Your Bank Accounts Safe from Fraud

dv816013_LR1Research Company Gartner Inc. estimates that two million people in the United States have had money stolen from their bank accounts in the past year. A growing number of victims of such financial exploitation are also seniors.  Though fraud is often committed by a complete stranger, it is unfortunately very common for seniors to be taken advantage of by their own family and caregivers.

According to the National Association for Professional Geriatric Care Managers, some indicators of potential senior financial abuse include:

  • Someone is responsible for paying bills for the senior, but the bills are not paid and there are not adequate resources to pay for them.
  • Unexplained money missing from the senior’s accounts.
  • Family member/caregiver withdrawing large amounts of money from accounts.
  • Someone taking money under false pretenses.
  • Forgery.
  • Seniors are forced to make property transfers or transfers that are completed through lies or deceit.

Online banking has become more popular in the recent years and so there are a few precautionary tips for both standard banking and online banking.

To protect standard bank accounts, statements should be read immediately and deposit and withdraws should be analyzed to ensure that no suspicious activity is occurring.  Your statements and checkbooks should never be left out in the open, especially if you have a caregiver around. With your ATM card, never lend it to people or share you PIN number. Be cautious when using your ATM card, making sure to shield your transaction from people who may be observing you without your knowledge. Keep your statements in a secure location and shred old ones. When giving someone a check, never leave it blank for the individuals to fill out themselves. Also, be the initiator when speaking with your bank. Sometimes people will call and identify themselves as your bank. In these cases, hang up and call the bank back yourself. Know that your bank will never call you and ask you for private information, such as your account number.

For online banking, make sure to log onto your account regularly to monitor your transactions and check for accuracy. Restrict your online banking activity to your private home and not in a public setting such as a coffee shop. Just as with a standard banking system, if your bank calls you and requests information, hang up and call back yourself to make sure it isn’t a fraud. Another trick is to check that your connection is secure. A good way to do this is to make sure the banks website starts with “https.” It is also recommended that you change your password a few times a year and install software barriers like firewalls and anti-virus.

Most banks offer special banking opportunities for people 60 and over. Ask your bank about their offerings for senior citizens. A little caution will go a long way to keep your money safe.