Financial exploitation is when someone pressures you to give them money.
It can happen to anyone, including people with developmental disabilities. Unfortunately, those who financially exploit others can include trusted family members, friends, acquaintances, and strangers.
You may be vulnerable to financial exploitation if things that others want from you become more important than what you want and need for yourself. Learn to question financial requests, no matter how much you may like, or perhaps feel uncomfortable about, the person making the request. Some things that you can learn that will help decrease the risk of financial exploitation include:
Don't give in to pressure!
- Be alert to people who try to pressure you into buying products that are overpriced, worthless, or non-existent, or who try to pressure you into giving them money or property.
- Never let yourself get rushed into a decision. If someone wants you to give them money "right now", tell them you will have to wait to talk to someone else. Ask them for more details.
- Stay informed about current scams and con games. Friends, family members, your Service Coordinator, or self -advocacy groups are a good source of information.
- Feel free to say "no". After all, it's your money. You don't have to give people money or things just because they ask.
Be careful who you trust!
- Be careful about allowing others who don't need to know to have access to personal information or information about your finances.
- Don't loan or give your money or property to caregivers. If a caregiver asks to borrow money or your things, talk to their supervisor.
- Know when it is okay to show your ID (e.g., to a police officer, bus driver, doctor's office staff, etc.). It is dangerous to show your ID to other people, even if the other person has shown his or her ID to you.
- It is dangerous to tell strangers your name and other personal information such as your address or social security number. Even if you see someone every day (at work, on the same bus), they still are not the kind of friend who needs your personal information. When a person does have a need to know personal information, be careful not to share it too loudly. Don't talk about money or show your money in public.
- If someone requests your personal information: Ignore the question and walk away, hang up the phone, or say, "I don't answer personal questions".
Ask for help!
- If someone close to you is trying to take control of your finances against your will, speak to someone you trust or call the local Adult Protective Services office. You have the right not to be threatened or intimidated.
- Consult with a trusted family member or friend before signing any document you don't understand.
- You may need or want another person to help handle your finances such as a banker, lawyer, your Service Coordinator, or trusted friend. Have them review your finances with you on a regular basis.
- If someone tries to steal something from you, give them what they want, then get away rapidly and get help immediately.
Remember, those who exploit others can be charming.
They may even tell you they are doing you a favor. Exploiters can also be threatening. They may pressure you or threaten that bad things will happen: "If you don't give me your money, you can't live here anymore".
Don't be fooled. Talk to somebody you trust if you are not sure about something or if you need help.
Information for Family Members who are Representative Payees
If you are the Representative Payee for a family member with developmental disabilities, it is important for you to know the responsibilities of this position. To decrease the likelihood of Representative Payee misuse of social security benefits and possible financial exploitation, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has established the following guidelines.
- Determine the beneficiary's total needs and use the benefits received in the best interest of the beneficiary.
- If the beneficiary does not live with you, maintain a continuing awareness of the beneficiary's needs and condition by visiting the beneficiary and consulting with caregivers.
- Apply the benefit payments only for the beneficiary's use and benefit.
- Notify SSA of any change in circumstances that would affect your performance of the Representative Payee's responsibilities.
- Report to SSA any event that will affect the amount of benefits the beneficiary receives and give SSA written reports accounting for the use of the benefits.
- Using a beneficiary's funds for the Representative Payee's personal expenses, or spending funds in a way that would leave the beneficiary without necessary items or services (housing, food, and medical care).
- Putting a beneficiary's Social Security or SSI funds in the Representative payee's or another person's account.
- Keeping conserved funds once they are no longer a Representative Payee for the beneficiary.
- Charging the beneficiary for Representative Payee services unless authorized by the Social Security Administration to do so.