Follow these tips to avoid financial exploitation

Older Americans should know that while financial abuse is believed to cost seniors an estimated $3 billion annually, you can help prevent it and protect yourself.

Watch for these signs:

• You, family, friends or your bank notice financial activity you don’t recall, that is not consistent with your financial history or that is beyond your means.

• Your caregiver or beneficiary refuses to use your funds for necessary care and treatment or is threatening to place you in a long-term care facility unless you give him or her control of your finances.

• It appears that food or medication has been manipulated or withheld so you be-come weak and compliant.

You can take these steps:

• If you feel threatened and believe you are in immediate danger, contact law enforcement.

• Talk with family members, friends and trusted professionals to plan your financial future. If managing daily finances is difficult, consider engaging a money manager.

• Talk with a lawyer about creating a durable power of attorney for asset management, a revocable or living will, trust and health care advance directives.

• Don’t be pressured or intimidated into quick decisions by a salesperson or contractor.

• Don’t sign any documents you don’t completely understand without first talking it over with an attorney or a family member you trust.

• Never provide personal information — Social Security, credit card, ATM PIN number — over the phone unless you placed the call and know with whom you are speaking.

• Tear up or shred credit card receipts, bank statements, solicitations and financial records before disposing of them.

• If you hire someone to help you in your home, be sure that person has been properly screened, including a criminal background check.

• If you suspect you or someone you know is being exploited, call (800) 677-1116 to get connected with the state Adult Protective Services or other appropriate aging resource.