COUNTY—According to the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities (DOBS), elder financial abuse has become the number one issue reported and verified to workers in Adult Protective Services across the Commonwealth.

DOBS reported in its Elder Financial Abuse Prevention toolkit that “as many as 20 percent of older Americans have experienced financial fraud or are very concerned about becoming victims of fraud.”

Many others are also at risk, especially those with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), states the toolkit.

Through its Elder Investment Fraud and Financial Exploitation (EIFFE) prevention program, expanded back in July of this year to include the Senior$safe program, DOBS looks to encourage financial professionals, medical professionals and other members of the community to help elderly Americans avoid falling into a cycle of financial abuse.

The EIFFE prevention program provides training sessions and scenarios for financial institutions and adult protective services personnel to spot potential abuse and help victims avoid it.

Information is available via email at informed@pa.gov.

DOBS notes some risk factors for potential financial abuse include:

Recent loss of a spouse or partner

• Social isolation

• Dependent on someone for care, transportation, or other services

• Financially responsible for an adult child, grandchild, or other family member

• Recent change in health

• Frequent mistakes in managing finances or expressing feeling overwhelmed in managing finances

• Worrying too much about finances

• Running out of money regularly at the end of the month

• Willing to listen to telemarketers or other unknown callers, attend “free lunch” seminars, or look into work-at-home opportunities or sweepstakes

• Pressure from children, caregivers, or others to share money or change will.

DOBS asks that those concerned elder financial abuse is afoot call the Department of Aging hotline, 1-800-490-8505.

Seniors can also take action to keep themselves protected from potential abuse.

DOBS recommends seniors:

• Limit phone calls from strangers and register on the Do Not Call Registry

• Never give out personal information to strangers in response to texts, emails, or calls regardless of who they claim to be

• Never wire money to strangers under any circumstances

• Review your financial account statements at least monthly and address any unauthorized charges or issues immediately

• Monitor your credit report at least annually

• Consider enlisting a trusted family member or reputable bill-paying service

• Use caution when using joint accounts as a method of planning for incapacity or getting help paying bills

• Execute a power of attorney only if you can appoint someone you completely trust and after consulting with an attorney (and only if necessary)

• Never convey or quitclaim an interest in real estate without consulting an attorney

• Use a document shredder for all discarded paperwork and credit card offers.

More information about ways to protect elderly Americans from financial abuse is available on the DOBS website, http://www.dobs.pa.gov.

Information on elder care and services is available online from the state department of aging, www.aging.pa.gov, and the county aging office, http://www.waynecountypa.gov/149/Agency-on-Aging.