Tips for Spotting Signs of Elder Financial Abuse

Published on May 16, 2024

What Is elder financial abuse?

Elder financial abuse involves using an older adult’s money, property, or resources for personal gain in illegal or improper ways. This abuse can take many forms, including stealing money, forging financial documents, pressuring older adults to give away assets, exploiting access to financial accounts, targeting seniors through scams, and committing identity theft.

Warning signs of elder financial abuse

If you suspect a loved one has been the target of financial abuse, watch for changes in their financial habits and unexplained activities involving their assets. Other warning signs include:

  • Large withdrawals from accounts
  • New joint accounts or credit card accounts
  • Increasing credit card balances
  • Unpaid bills, eviction/foreclosure notices, or insufficient funds notifications
  • Checks sent to unknown persons
  • Missing property or belongings
  • New bank transfers or recurring transactions
  • Forged signatures on financial or legal documents
  • Changes to a will or power of attorney
  • Financial documents sent to the wrong address
  • New “friends” who isolate the older adult from family
  • Caregivers or family members conducting financial transactions without proper authorization

Cognitive decline and mobility issues increase the risk of financial abuse for seniors. Dishonest individuals may exploit older adults with cognitive issues who don’t fully understand the financial consequences of their actions. Those with mobility problems may be dependent on others for errands, such as banking, and are thus more vulnerable.

Preventing elder financial abuse

Being vigilant and proactive can help prevent financial abuse. Here are some steps to take to help prevent your loved one from becoming a victim:

  • Make money management a family responsibility. Involve trusted family members in financial tasks and set up financial alerts to monitor accounts.
  • Understand the current state of your loved one’s finances, including account balances, the types of accounts they have, and recurring transactions.
  • Set up automatic payments for bills to avoid missed payments.
  • Establish a power of attorney for important accounts.
  • Cancel unused credit cards.
  • Opt out of credit solicitations.
  • Monitor credit reports and consider placing a credit freeze.

Reporting elder financial abuse

If you have evidence that your loved one has been a victim of elder financial exploitation, there are steps you can take to report it.

  • Contact the financial institutions involved to inform them of the situation.
  • Reach out to your local division of adult protective services for investigation and assistance with potential criminal charges.
  • Report the abuse to local authorities using the non-emergency number. If your loved one is in immediate danger, call 911.
  • Contact the local district attorney’s office to request prosecution of the abuser.

Elder financial abuse is a serious issue that requires vigilance and proactive measures to prevent and address. By recognizing the warning signs, taking preventive actions, and reporting abuse when suspected, you can help protect your loved ones and hold abusers accountable.

Source: Source: IlluminAge AgeWise with information from AARP, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Washington State Department of Financial Institutions