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Remaining socially connected is critical to protecting seniors from financial abuse

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An outreach campaign is being launched on June 15 in recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, to share information on how to prevent the financial abuse of seniors. The Financial and Consumer Services Commission’s (FCNB) campaign is particularly appropriate now when many seniors are physically distancing to protect their health.

“Through our work with seniors’ groups and with other regulators, we know that when seniors are isolated it increases their vulnerability to financial exploitation and fraud,” said Deb Gillis, Senior Legal Counsel with FCNB. “There are safe ways to remain connected with older family members, friends and neighbours.”

During the campaign, FCNB will share an online guide to encourage caregivers, friends and family members to connect with the seniors in their lives. Tips are included such as: scheduling regular telephone calls or virtual calls with loved ones; assisting with getting groceries or medications and having physically distanced visits when dropping these items off.

FCNB will also share an updated brochure later in the month on the province’s new legislation regarding power of attorney, and a video on how seniors can remain socially connected during self-isolation.

Gillis said friends and family members should talk to the seniors in their lives about their finances, watch for the signs of financial exploitation, learn to recognize the red flags of fraud and take advantage of the estate planning tools and resources on the FCNB’s website.

FCNB recommends discussing with seniors the common frauds and scams stemming from the pandemic. These include the CERB email scam, unsolicited calls or texts giving medical advice or offering COVID-19 related products. FCNB has a webpage devoted to such scams that are circulating in the province.

Seniors are also advised to be mindful of other family members or people in their lives who may have become financially strapped due to circumstances caused by the pandemic and who could attempt to take financial advantage of them. In many cases, the perpetrators of senior financial abuse are trusted family members and friends.

“Remaining socially connected, learning to recognize the red flags of fraud and exploitation, and talking about future financial plans can help protect New Brunswickers from becoming a victim,” said Gillis.

“People should review their estate planning documents to ensure they are up-to-date. Seniors should consider who will have their power of attorney, ensure they are named in a legal document and discuss the financial roles they expect that person to undertake if they become unable to do so,” she said. “That way, family members may recognize when a person is acting outside of their authority. If these conversations are delayed until someone becomes ill, they are likely to be more difficult, hurried and emotional.”

FCNB has made the issue of senior financial abuse a priority, and is working with its regulatory counterparts across the country in proposing changes to address the issue.

“World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is a good opportunity to highlight the issues surrounding senior financial exploitation,” said Gillis. “With 20 per cent of New Brunswick’s population in the senior age group, it is important to learn how to protect your loved ones every day from this devastating crime.”

The Financial and Consumer Services Commission has the mandate to protect consumers and enhance public confidence in the financial and consumer marketplace through the provision of regulatory and educational services. It is responsible for the administration and enforcement of provincial legislation regulating mortgage brokers, payday lenders, real estate, securities, insurance, pensions, credit unions, trust and loan companies, co-operatives, and a wide range of other consumer legislation. It is an independent Crown corporation funded by the regulatory fees and assessments paid by the regulated sectors. Educational tools and resources are available online.