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State agency encourages people to watch for signs of elder financial abuse

MADISON — The Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) is spotlighting the importance of safeguarding Wisconsin’s senior population by keeping a watchful eye for signs of elder financial exploitation and promptly reporting possible abuse to appropriate officials.

Elder financial abuse is rising with the rapid aging of the country’s population, due in part to the amount of wealth seniors have accumulated throughout their careers and their increasing isolation.

“Many of our older citizens are vulnerable due to social isolation and distance from family, caregivers, and other support networks,” said Leslie Van Buskirk, Administrator of DFI’s Division of Securities. “The days of aging in communities surrounded by generations of family members are fading into the past. We need as many eyes and ears as possible listening and watching for signs of suspected financial exploitation of our elderly citizens.”

DFI suggests watching for the following warning signs of suspicious behavior that may indicate potential elder financial exploitation:

• Has an elder moved away from existing relationships and toward new associations with other “friends” or strangers?

• Has a new person entered the elder’s life and shown an excessive interest in that person’s finances or accounts?

• Are you unable to speak directly with the elder despite repeated attempts at contact?

• Does the elder display unexplained excitement over a financial windfall or prize check and reluctance to discuss details?

If these sound familiar, Van Buskirk recommends contacting the DFI’s Division of Securities at (608) 266-2139 for investment-related concerns. Other types of elder abuse should be reported to the Elder at Risk agency in your county  at https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/aps/ear-agencies.htm for a list or local law enforcement.

Contact information for all state and provincial securities regulators, as well as adult protective services agencies and other governmental resources, is available on the North American Securities Administrators Association’s (NASAA) Serve Our Seniors website at serveourseniors.org.

NASAA, of which the DFI is a member, is the oldest international organization devoted to investor protection. Its membership consists of the securities administrators in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the provinces and territories of Canada, and Mexico. www.nasaa.org.