Part one: Understanding the signs of financial elder abuse and what to do

Financial elder abuse is a devastating but not uncommon occurrence in today’s society. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, financial elder abuse includes the misappropriation of an elderly person’s finances or property.

Suspecting that an elderly parent, grandparent or other loved one is being taken advantage of in any way can be infuriating, yet it can be difficult to know what steps to take. The best way to protect a loved one from financial exploitation is to first understand the signs of financial elder abuse, before you can uncover what steps to take should you recognize these signs.

Circumstances that can lead to financial exploitation

A combination of multiple factors can lead to a perpetrator financially exploiting an elderly person. Three of the main risks include:

  • The social isolation of the elderly person
  • The elderly person’s lack of support or resources
  • The elderly person’s physical, emotional or mental dependence on the perpetrator

Sadly, 90% of the scammers are family members or someone else who the victim knows well, such as a friend, neighbor or caregiver.

Forms of financial exploitation

There are many types of financial abuse, each designed by the perpetrator to enrich themselves at your loved one’s expense. In many cases, perpetrators see older people as vulnerable, inviting targets for schemes that include pocketing valuables such as jewelry, and more complicated scams such as identity theft, credit card misuse, money transfer fraud, forged checks and investment scams.

This abuse does much more than financial damage. It can also rob seniors of well-earned retirement in comfort, as well as their sense of dignity and pride.

Signs that financial exploitation is taking place can include:

  • Fake or forged signatures on financial documents
  • Sudden or unusual changes to bank accounts or other financial accounts
  • Sudden changes to a will or other estate planning documents
  • Uncharacteristically late or unpaid bills

Another sign may be a general lack of uncertainty about finances, including if the elderly person is suddenly no longer engaged or knowledgeable about their finances.

We will have more information on signs of financial abuse and steps to take to stop it in upcoming blog posts. If you suspect your loved one is suffering from financial abuse, contact an attorney to learn more about your options.