Financial Exploitation of Seniors, How to Recognize It and Prevent It
Elder abuse is the intentional act or failure to act by a caregiver or another person in a relationship involving an expectation of trust. Such an act creates a risk of harm to an older adult.
Elder financial abuse is a crime that can take many form, including:
Abuse of power and trust
Misuse of funds or property
Caregivers or others with a trusted relationship are often the ones that carry out such acts, unfortunately. These crimes exploit their position of trust or power in order to receive financial gain.
Elder financial abuse by family members, caregivers, or guardians might even occur with the elder's knowledge and consent. This makes it harder to detect and verify.
Examples of Financial Abuse to the Elderly
Taking, misusing or using elder financial or property without permission
Forging an elder’s signature or abusing joint signature authority at their bank
Cashing elder’s checks without permission
Getting an elder to use power of attorney by deception, or undue influence
Denying the elderly access to money or barring them from the control of their own assets
Recognizing Financial Abuse
Missing belongings like art or jewelry
Missing financial documentation
The senior being unaware of recent financial transactions
The senior being nervous when talking about money
Unpaid bills or discontinued utilities
Absence of care, food, or basic needs
Signs of Vulnerability
Untreated medical or mental health problems, or significant cognitive impairments
Social isolation and increased dependence on others
New acquaintances staying with the elder
Unusual activity like large withdrawals or ATM withdrawals
Bank statements delivered to an address other than the elder’s home
Hostility by the caregiver and reluctance to leave the elder alone during visits
Laws Protecting Against Elder Financial Abuse
Federal level - The Elder Justice Act coordinates federal and state agencies dealing with abuse cases.
State level - Most laws on the state level protect the elderly from financial abuse, including California state law. Other states have similar statutes or laws protecting elderly from financial abuse.
How to Report and Protect the Elderly from Financial Abuse
Report any form of elder abuse to the local Adult Protective Services (APS) office. Use the Eldercare Locator online to find your local APS office.
Other steps to take when protecting the elderly from financial abuse
Talk to the older person and help them accept assistance.
Gather more evidence on what’s occurring.
Contact your local Adult Protective Services (APS) office.
Contact law enforcement.
If the victim has an attorney, inform them of suspected financial abuse.
The US Department of Justice’s Elder Justice Initiative has a “Report Abuse” page. It has an interactive “roadmap” questionnaire to help identify specific authorities to report financial abuse.