Elderly Financial Abuse: Identifying the Types and How To Prevent It

Security and Fraud

Understanding the Impact of Elderly Financial Abuse

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), millions of older Americans are financially abused. Records show that 84 percent of cases go unreported. Older Americans can fall victim to elderly financial abuse including telemarketing scams, confidence crimes and forgery.

How to Identify Possible Elderly Financial Abuse

The FTC says you must be on the lookout for suspicious sudden changes in an older family member’s financial situation such as:

  • Changes in their wills or powers of attorney
  • Financial activity the person couldn’t have done him/herself
  • Bills not being paid
  • Significant withdrawals or unusual purchases

Forms of Elderly Financial Abuse

Forms of elderly financial abuse according to the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (NCPEA) are:

  • Taking money or property
  • Forging their signature
  • Signing a deed, will or power of attorney through deception, coercion or undue influence
  • Usage of property or possessions without permission
  • Promising lifelong care in exchange for money or property and not following through
  • Confidence crimes (“cons”) are the use of deception to gain victims’ confidence
  • Telemarketing scams

Elderly Financial Abuse Scams

Behavior changes and out of the ordinary purchases are signs of financial abuse. Make sure you’re on the lookout for these specific scams:

  • Grandparent scam: Scammers call pretending to be a grandchild asking for money due to a crisis. They ask for payment via Western Union, MoneyGram, etc.
  • Door-to-door sales scams: People will go to your older family member’s house and make a low offer for a service and let them know it’s only good at the moment.
  • Charitable check scams: People claim they work with a charity and ask for donations or money for raffles. Do research about the charity and encourage your older family member to donate at a later time.

Typically, it is the closest family members who care for the finances of their older family members. In some cases, these people such as sons or grandchildren are the perpetrators. Some potential reasons are a bad relationship with the family member, financial problems and inheritance disputes.

How to Prevent Elderly Financial Abuse

People over the age of 50 control more than 70 percent of the nation’s wealth according to the NCPEA. This makes them an attractive target. Another reason these people are taken advantage of is because of their lack of understanding of financial matters. Due to new technology and services offered by financial institutions it can be difficult for them to understand.

To prevent elderly financial abuse, it is important to closely monitor and manage older family members’ finances responsibly. Professionals like bankers and personal accountants should also be aware of any financial abuse indicators in their client’s activities.

Visit the Federal Trade Commission’s identity theft site to read about the steps you must take if a family member is being financially abused. You can also contact the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority at (844) 575-3577. Other options are to contact your local authorities if there’s immediate danger, Adult Protective Services, the victim’s bank or credit union and the FTC if it involves a scam.

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