Newton Event Reveals Hidden Costs of Elder Financial Abuse

May 01, 2019

Shown above, from left, Surya Kolluri, panel moderator Sally Abrahms, Liz Loewy, Linda Amir, Philip Marshall, Andrea Teichman, John Hibbs.

When her father’s health began to decline, Andrea Teichman, senior vice president and general counsel at Waltham-based Benchmark Senior Living, felt fortunate to have her parents’ longtime caregiver to rely upon. The caregiver originally came through an agency and soon became a part of their family. It wasn’t until her father needed full-time memory care that she made a devastating discovery: The caregiver had opened 13 credit cards in her father’s name, charging $85,000 against more than $200,000 in credit. 

Teichman was completely blind-sided.  Working by day at Benchmark, a human connection company and leading provider of senior living services, she wondered how she, of all people, could have missed this.

According to the National Council on Aging, elder financial abuse and fraud costs older Americans upwards of $36.5 billion annually. By 2050, more than 2 billion people over 60 will be prime targets for those with ill-intent, including hackers and people engaged in cyber-fraud, phishing, social engineering schemes and other forms of financial fraud. What’s more, statistics show that many of these victims won’t survive when the emotional and physical effects plus loss of independence become more than they can bear. 

Benchmark and Bank of America Team Up to Educate Seniors
Recently, Benchmark and Bank of America partnered to host a panel discussion for the benefit of Newton-area seniors and their family members about the growing problem of cyber-abuse and how to protect against it. 

More than 100 people convened at Brae Burn Country Club in Newton, Mass., for the event led by Linda Amir, Benchmark’s senior director of financial solutions. Amir brought together an expert panel comprised of Benchmark’s Andrea Teichman;  Liz Loewy, former New York district attorney and co-founder of EverSafe; Philip Marshall, founder of Beyond Brooke, an organization advancing elder justice; and Bank of America’s Surya Kolluri and John Hibbs, internationally recognized leaders in financial longevity and cyber-security, respectively.

Advice from the panel included:

• Set up a monitoring service for ALL financial accounts, including bank, credit card and investment accounts.
• Freeze your credit report – and that of your senior loved one – so that no one can apply for or secure credit in your name or their name without you knowing about it.
• Adjust your social media settings, particularly Facebook, so that only friends can see your information and, especially, your whereabouts.
• Create multiple email addresses for different accounts and delete an email address if it’s breached. 
• Enable multi-factor authentication on all online accounts to make it more difficult for individuals to hack into your accounts. 

This event was the first in a planned series of Let’s Talk panel discussions led by Benchmark to leverage its expertise as well as that of trusted partners, including Merrill, a division of Bank of America. 

Victims Share Their Personal Experience 
Panelist Philip Marshall became known for blowing the whistle on his father for stealing from his grandmother, famed New York philanthropist Brooke Astor. Marshall described the events leading to his discovery and the lengthy legal battle leading to his late father’s conviction in 2009 for stealing $14 million.

Ruth and Beatrice, both longtime residents at Benchmark’s Evans Park at Newton Corner assisted living and memory care community in Newton, Mass., also described their near misses with scammers in a short video. “I received an email from [supposedly] Bank of America, asking me a series of questions,” says Beatrice, “including my social security number. I knew they should already have that information, so I called Bank of America, who didn’t know anything about the email.” 

“As a human connection company, Benchmark strives to create life-changing experiences for those we serve,” says Amir. “A vital experience for our residents, families and associates is feeling confident that they know how to keep their financial lives safe. That’s why we’re doing all we can to educate those we serve as well as the friends and neighbors in our local communities.”
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