Protecting the elderly from financial exploitation

Financial abuse of the elderly is unfortunately all too common, and it's a legitimate concern. Here are some tips for detecting and preventing this type of abuse, which people in your own circle can fall prey to.

Ms Gendron’s story

An 85-year-old client of Caisse Desjardins des Mille-Îles, whom we’ll call Ms. Gendron, almost was a victim. Every time her financial advisor called, her daughter stepped in. She explained that her mother was preparing a power of attorney and that they would both be going to the caisse shortly to sign the documents.

Pressure to sign

But when her daughter was out, Ms. Gendron took the initiative to call the advisor herself. She anxiously explained that she felt pressured by her daughter to sign the documents in question. The advisor invited her in to discuss the matter. At their meeting, the advisor shared her concern and put a note in Ms. Gendron’s file explaining that she had no intention of granting others full authority over her transactions. This conversation helped prevent abuse.

Ties of trust

Ms. Gendron had the instinct to contact her institution. But not all victims of financial exploitation have the resources or the opportunity to do so. In many cases, the victim feels vulnerable and has close ties with their abuser. Between 2010 and 2016, 55%* of the situations handled by the Elder Mistreatment Helpline involved a member of the person’s immediate or extended family. In 38%* of cases the caller’s child was involved.

Emotional blackmail

Ill-intentioned loved ones commonly use emotional blackmail and pressure to get a friend or family member to liquidate, sell or bequeath assets, investments or an inheritance. Theft of property, jewellery or cash and forced loans are also common.

How to recognize financial abuse

Fake contests, questionable charities, phone or online scams—financial abuse takes many different forms. That’s why it’s so important to always be on your guard and take your time making up your mind. We recommend putting your financial assets in a bank account rather than keeping cash at home, and never share your banking information over the phone, by email or on social media. If you’re asked for financial information to receive a purported prize or money or to update your file, be careful. Never provide that sort of information just because somebody asks.

Good habits for preventing abuse:

  • Memorize the personal identification numbers (PINs) of your Desjardins access and credit cards, don’t share your PINs with anyone and don’t leave a paper trail.
  • Carry out financial transactions, at automatic teller machines of well-known institutions like Desjardins.
  • Keep your credit and debit cards with you and do not lend them to others.
  • Monitor your finances and transactions regularly, even if you have given someone power of attorney.
  • For online financial transactions, only use a private, secure Wi-Fi network, and log on using a complex password consisting of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols, such as a personal phrase.

What to do in case of doubt

Your notary or advisor can help you determine whether you need to give someone access to your account.

You can also call on a legal advisor or your notary to draw up a will or power of attorney or to arrange a loan for a loved one.

If you have concerns or problems, a variety of confidential advice and support resources are there to help.

  • Contact your caisse advisor or call 1-800-CAISSES.
  • If you live in Quebec, you can call the Elder Mistreatment Helpline at 1-888-489-2287.
  • If you live in Ontario, you can call the Seniors Safety Line at 1-866-299-1011.

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in Canada. Protecting your personal information is our priority. That’s why we have developed a protection solution for our individual and business members. Learn more about our identity theft protection measures - This link will open in a new window..

At all stages of your life, you can get support and protection in difficult situations.

*2017-2022 Governmental Action Plan to Counter Elder Abuse, p. 25

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