Protect yourself from financial
identity theft, and scams.
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Financial exploitation can rob a person of self-esteem and trust, as
well as stealing needed income and assets. Although financial exploitation
does not leave physical scars, it is an abusive crime.
Consider these actions to protect yourself from financial exploitation.
- No one, not even a trusted family member, should pressure you into
giving up control of your finances. If you are feeling pressured, talk
to someone at your church, your local Aging and Disability Resource
Center, your bank or an attorney.
Set up a Power of Attorney for Finances (POA-F).
The POA-F form asks you to consider a wide range of financial
decisions. If you should become incapacitated, even for a short time,
your agent will act for you based on directions YOU provided when the
form was completed. Having a POA-F and a Power of Attorney for Health
Care can often delay or replace the need for a guardianship. In
addition, the decisions will be made based on your choices and your
preferred agent. A Power of Attorney can be as limited or as broadly
defined as you wish and can be revoked at any time. Keep a copy of the
form safe in your home and give a copy to your agent as well as to
your financial institutions: banks, mortgage company, insurance
company, etc. Click here to get a POA-F form and more information
about this document. Ten reasons to complete a Power of Attorney form.
Check references and
credentials of anyone you hire to provide care or services.
In most cases, caregivers do not need access
to your financial records. Keep your financial information private and
Practice safe banking:
Avoid joint checking accounts with
non-spouses. When you add someone's name to your account, they can do
FAR more than sign checks to pay your bills. They become a joint owner
of the account and can withdraw the entire balance without your
knowledge or approval. Additionally, if they have any debts, his or
her creditors may be entitled to funds in your shared account.
"Payable on death" accounts: If you
want the person to inherit the funds in your account, instead of a
joint checking account, consider a "payable on death"
designation. All you have to do is notify your bank as well as the
beneficiary of the legal name of the person who you want to inherit
the money. You don't have to pay fees to an attorney for a Payable On
Death bank account, but it accomplishes the exact same goals as a
Automatic payments: If you are establishing
an account so that someone can help you pay expenses, consider
depositing only enough to pay each month's bills. Many bills can now
be paid directly from your account. Check with your bank or service
provider about automatic monthly payments.
If someone is helping you pay bills and
manage your accounts, get a trusted third party to do a monthly review
of your bank statements
Protected accounts: Create
"protected" accounts that limit daily, weekly or monthly
withdrawals or flag irregular activity. If someone is helping you to
manage your finances, get a trusted third person to review your bank
statement each month.
Have your social security, pension and other
income checks automatically deposited. Your checks will be securely
deposited so you do not have to be concerned about lost or stolen
checks. Talk to your bank about direct deposit. For automatic deposit
of your social security checks, call 1-800-772-1213. Click here for or
more information about direct deposit of your social security checks.
Do not sign over money or property to anyone
in return for care, even family members, without review by a trusted
If you can no longer use your ATM card,
Check your bank statements at least monthly.
Open your own mail.
Do not feel pressured to sign documents that
you do not understand.
Sign your own checks and do not sign
"blank checks," even for family members.
It is your money. Do not be afraid to say NO.
Do not be afraid to ask for help.
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Consider these actions to protect yourself from unscrupulous
To prevent most telemarketing calls, get on the state or federal
DO NOT CALL list. Contact Wisconsin's "No-Call" list by calling
Remove your name from direct-mail lists. At this time, there is
not a national Do Not Mail registry but you can send your name and address to
several organizations that, for one dollar, will remove your name from
large direct-mail companies.
Make sure the caller and the service or product offered
are licensed to do business in Wisconsin. Call 1-800-472-4325 or visit the
Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions to find out.
Never give out personal information over the phone. Ask callers
to mail you information; then check them out.
Do feel free to ask for a
manager/supervisor if you are getting unwanted, repeat calls. You have a
right to know the company's name and address.
Do have the caller send you written material to study before you
make a purchase.
Do talk to family members and friends to get advice about a large
purchase or investment.
Do ask to be removed from the telemarketer's list.
Do not pay for any "prize" based
on a call you receive.
Do not give any caller your credit card or social security number
if you did not initiate the call.
DO NOT be afraid to hang up.
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Consider these actions to protect yourself from identity theft.
You may also want to look over a full copy of the Wisconsin Office of
Privacy Protection's identify
theft safeguards. If you know someone who should have all this information but does not
have access to the internet, click here to print a copy for them.
- Rip or shred all bills and documents containing identifying
information before tossing them in the garbage.
- Shred or destroy any pre-approved credit card offers before you
toss them into the garbage. These are a target for identity thieves.
- Do not give out bank account information unless you place the
call. Banks NEVER e-mail or call to ask for your bank account number. If
they work at your bank, they already have your account details.
- If you think your bank is calling about a problem with your account,
tell the caller you will get back to the bank. Do not use the number they
give you, look up the phone number for your bank and call them. This is
also a good way for the bank to know that someone is endangering their
- Never give out credit card numbers over the phone unless you
placed the call.
- Protect your passwords and pin numbers.
- Never give out your Social Security number or bank account
number over the phone.
- If you get a phone call from someone asking for your social
security number, date of birth, credit card number or bank account number,
the best strategy to stay safe is to hang up.
- To minimize the amount of information subject to theft, do not
carry extra credit cards, your Social Security card, birth certificate, or
passport in your wallet or purse, except when needed.
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Consider these actions to protect yourself from scams.
- Con artists and scammers can be very charming and nice.
Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Never get rushed into making a deal. Get the details in writing
and if you are uncomfortable with the deal, talk to a trusted family
member or friend before providing any financial information to a stranger.
- Home repair schemes are common across the nation. Before you
give any money to someone who comes to your door, talk to your neighbors
or trusted family members. Also, ask to see credentials and local
references. This is especially important if the business contact
information is not in your area or even in Wisconsin. It is best to get at
least two estimates before you get any work done on your home. Do not pay
for any work in advance of its completion and get a written contract or
- Do not pay cash to persons you hire. Paying by credit card
provides greater protections.
- Do not be too embarrassed to ask for help and advice on matters
related to your money. Do not be embarrassed if you have been scammed.
Report the event to your local sheriff or to consumer protection.
- Be Familiar with Common Scams. Check out these links
about common scams like foreign lotteries, pigeon drops, dead debt.
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More Helpful Links
Do Not Call List Web Site - Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade
and Consumer Protection
Wisconsin Department of Justice Financial Exploitation Page
Identity Theft and Your Social Security Number
Texas Attorney General Financial Exploitation Information
Indiana Attorney General Financial Exploitation Information
US Securities and Exchange Commission - Avoiding fraudulent securities
Register your telephone number with the National
Do-Not-Call Registry or call 1-888-382-1222 toll-free.
This registry prevents most telemarketing calls to
the registered number with the exception of calls from political
organizations, charities, telephone surveyors and companies with which you
have an existing business relationship.
To remove your name and home address from national mailing lists, write
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Last Revised:March 15, 2013