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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:

  1. Abuse of power and trust

  2. Identity theft

  3. 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.



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