Elder financial exploitation robs victims of their resources, dignity and quality of life—and they may never recover from it. Anyone who sees signs of theft, fraud, misuse of a person's assets or credit, or use of undue influence to gain control of an older person's money or property should be on the alert. Those are signs of possible exploitation. Older Americans that may have disabilities or rely on others for help can be susceptible to scams and other fraud. Advances in technology can also make it difficult for seniors to know who to trust and what's safe.
Abusers can be anyone—family members, caregivers, friends, neighbors or complete strangers. Keys to spotting financial abuse is a change in a person's financial patterns.
Watch Out for These Red Flags
- Frequent or unexplained withdrawals that are inconsistent for the elder's normal behavior
- Withdrawals from bank accounts or transfers between accounts the customer cannot explain
- A new "best friend" accompanying an older person to the bank
- Sudden non-sufficient fund activity or unpaid bills
- Closing CDs or accounts without regard to penalties
- Uncharacteristic attempts to wire large sums of money
- Suspicious signatures on checks or outright forgery
- Confusion, fear or lack of awareness on the part of an older customer
- Checks written as "loans" or "gifts"
- Bank statements that no longer go to the customer's home
- New powers of attorney the older person does not understand
- A caretaker, relative or friend who suddenly begins conducting financial transactions on behalf of an older person without proper documentation
- Altered wills and trusts
If you suspect any of the above, you should report abuse to your local Department of Social Services in the county where the disabled adult lives.
Money Smart for Older Adults Online Guide