WHAT IS ELDER FRAUD AND FINANCIAL ABUSE?
Elder financial abuse happens when someone takes money or property from an older person without their knowledge, understanding, or consent. It happens every year. Of the reported cases, we know that Americans are losing at least $2.9 billion every year to people who take advantage of them¹.
Elder financial elder is on rise and it’s occurring more frequently every year. Elder fraud and financial abuse may be limited to an isolated attempt to steal money from your account, but can also be a series of ongoing events designed to drain your resources. If criminals obtain your personal financial information, they might be able to drain your accounts or make charges to your credit cards.
Thieves might also commit a crime called identity theft, which is when someone steals personal information and uses it to open new accounts or make transactions in a your name.
The National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (NCPEA) defines elder financial abuse as a broad spectrum of conduct including:
WHY OLDER ADULTS?
There are many reasons why older adults become targets and fall prey to scammers or thieves. The most common reason is that they are most likely to depend on others, due to disabilities or declining health. But not all scammers or thieves are strangers.
Caregivers, close friends, and other trusted individuals have ready access to their homes, financial accounts, personal information, medical supplies and medications, and they are typically trusted companions who can easily influence an older adult.
FAMILY MEMBERS / CLOSE FRIENDS
Close friends or family members are often to blame. They may:
Service providers may take advantage of older adults. They may:
Many criminals look for older adults to try to exploit or scam them. They might:
Older adults may not realize the value of their assets. This could make them a target for scammers or predators who could offer to buy their homes or possessions for a fraction of what these items are really worth.
Many older adults are not comfortable with technology in general. Criminals could volunteer to help older people set up online access to their bank accounts in an attempt to gain control over their usernames and passwords.
Some older adults have predictable patterns, such as receiving monthly checks or going to the bank on the same day every week. If criminals notice this pattern, they can break into the home while they are away. Also, they could steal the older person’s possessions through strong-arm tactics such as robbery or mugging.
EXAMPLES OF ELDER FRAUD
There are many scams aimed at older adults. Here are some examples that could affect you or a loved one:
OTHER EXAMPLES OF ELDER FRAUD
Know the signs of elder financial abuse. To help protect older family members and friends from financial abuse, it’s important to know what to look for:
- Behavioral changes, such as fear or submissiveness, social isolation, withdrawn behavior, disheveled appearance, forgetfulness, impulsiveness, secrecy, or paranoia.
- Large, frequent “gifts” given to caregivers.
- Large, unexplained and unexpected loans taken out by elders, such as student loans.
- Missing personal property.
- New best friends and “sweethearts”.
- Onset or worsening of illnesses or disability.
- Sudden, atypical or unexplained withdrawals, wire transfers, or other changes in their financial situations.
- Sudden desire to change their wills, especially when they might not fully understand the implications.
- Sudden increase in spending by family or friends.
- Sudden reluctance to talk about finances.
- Transfer of titles of homes or other assets to other people for no apparent reason.
- Utility or other bills not being paid.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Unfortunately, elder abuse is often not reported. There are things you can do to protect yourself or a loved one from fraud or financial abuse. Here are some tips to help you:
ORGANIZE YOUR FINANCES
No matter how old you are, it’s a good idea to update and organize all your financial documentation, including:
- Birth and marriage certificates
- Car titles
- Financial powers of attorney
- Insurance policies
- Pension and trust documents
- Real estate deeds
- Social Security paperwork
Maintaining an organized file and helping others (such as a parent, uncle, or close friend) do the same can make it easier to spot the inconsistencies and red flags that could signal financial abuse.
MONITOR FINANCIAL ACTIVITY
Check your account statements and credit reports regularly to make sure nothing has changed without you knowing. If there are any signs of changes not made by you, contact your bank or credit card company right away.
CREATE A LIST OF FINANCIAL CONTACTS
Bankers, insurance agents, attorneys, accountants, financial advisors, and other professionals should be on your list of financial contacts. Share your list, but not usernames or passwords, with those that help you manage your money such as your financial planner or advisor and family members you trust.
An older person could be at risk for exploitation. Be careful if the individual is unfamiliar with their finances, has family members who are struggling financially, or have substance abuse problems. Look for financial mishandling, which can include anything from the use of property or belongings without permission to persuading someone to sign a deed, will, or power of attorney through deception or coercion.
REPORT THE ABUSE
If you think you see a scam, talk with someone. Follow the rule – see something, say something. Help yourself and others by avoiding silence. Keep phone numbers and resources you can turn to, including local police, banks, credit card companies and Adult Protective Services. Then report it to the Federal Trade Commission.
To obtain the contact information for Adult Protective Services in your area, call the Eldercare Locator, a government sponsored national resource line, at: 1-800-677-1116, or visit the Eldercare Website.
There are many resources available to help you with Elder Financial Abuse. For more information, check out the links below:
Eldercare locator — find help in your community