Recognize the Signs of Elder Financial Abuse

April 7, 2021

Although it’s hard to imagine, seniors lose at least $2.6 billion per year due to financial abuse. The amount of money lost each year is likely much more significant than this because only about one in forty-four financial abuse cases is reported.

Acts of Elder Financial Abuse

Elder financial abuse can take many forms and include:

  • Using deception, coercion, or unfair influence to get a senior to sign a will, deed, power of attorney, or other legal documents
  • Forging a senior’s signature
  • Taking money or property without authorization
  • Using a senior’s credit card or checkbook without permission
  • Visiting or calling a senior to scam them through schemes and lies
  • Online scams targeted at seniors

Family Members are Typically the Most Common Perpetrators

While many seniors may fall victim to a stranger, approximately 58% of those committing elder financial abuse are family members. Some of the most common reasons that a family member may commit this type of crime include:

  • Addictive behaviors such as substance abuse, gambling, or compulsive shopping
  • Excessive credit card debt or other outstanding balances
  • Strained familial relationships that can result in feelings of neglect or entitlement
  • Feeling justified accessing an inheritance as they see inevitable
  • The temptation of having easy access to financial accounts

Warning Signs of Elder Financial Abuse

Though any senior can fall victim to elder financial abuse, it is typically women in their 80s who live alone that are most targeted. Those who need assistance maintaining their health or home or are living with dementia, mental, or physical disabilities are at higher risk for elder financial abuse. Signs that a senior has been preyed upon include:

  • Missing cash, property, checkbooks, or credit cards
  • Large loans taken out against home equity or other assets
  • Abrupt changes in financial arrangements or accounts
  • Unfamiliar account withdrawals
  • Unpaid bills, overdue notices, or documents with suspicious signatures
  • Suspicious investments in timeshares, properties, or financial products

If you are concerned that a dear friend or family member has fallen victim to elder financial abuse, draw on the moral support of someone you trust and start gathering the necessary documents and proof you need. From there, local law enforcement offices usually offer forms that allow you to report abuse confidentially, and the case will be referred to an investigator. You can also contact the adult protective services office in your area for helpful information and support.

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