Financial health is particularly important in our loved ones’ later years. The assets they have gathered over a lifetime are what will allow them to live comfortably, receive appropriate medical care and live out their later years with the support that they need.
However, the elderly are often vulnerable to manipulation and abuse, especially by the people who care for them.
What forms does financial abuse take?
Financial abuse can come in many forms. Caregivers, friends or family members may threaten elderly people to get their money or property. They may use a person’s possessions or funds without permission, forging their signature on checks or making withdrawals from their accounts.
Financial abuse can also involve the manipulation of an older person. One common concern in recent years is telemarketing or email scams meant to defraud them of their money. In other cases, someone may get close to a person for the purpose of receiving their money as a “gift” or being named as a beneficiary in their estate plan.
What are the signs of financial abuse?
While the mistreatment of your loved one’s finances may not leave scars in the same way that physical abuse can, financial abuse can still leave evidence. Some signs to look for include:
- Unexplained withdrawals from their account or strange behavior on their credit card
- Possessions or money going missing from an elderly person’s home
- Unpaid bills or a marked change in your loved one’s ability to afford their standard of living
- Suspicious or forged signatures on checks
- Sudden changes to an older person’s estate plan, especially new powers of attorney or changes to the beneficiaries on their will
- A change of mailing address for bank or credit card statements when the person has not moved
All of these can be signs that an older person is being manipulated or outright stolen from, or that someone has attempted to cover up their misconduct.
If you suspect that your loved one is being financially abused, discuss the situation with them. Forbes notes that you can report thefts to the police and report abuse of physically or mentally vulnerable people to county or state officials. You can also contact an attorney to explore the option of filing a lawsuit against their abuser. By responding quickly, you can protect your loved one now and prevent the abuse from further damaging their finances and their comfort in their later years.