How to Detect and Prevent Elder Financial Abuse

Elder abuse comes in many forms beyond just physical and emotional. One type of elder abuse that many fall victim to each year is elder financial abuse which is the theft, fraud, or misuse of an elder’s assets or money.

When we think of our elders, we typically picture a trusting, honest, and kind individual. Most of us respect and look up to our elders for their wisdom and many other good qualities. However, these trustworthy characteristics along with many seniors having good credit, a home, and financial savings, can often increase their chances of being targeted by scammers. As people age, they may also require assistance with managing their finances which can make them targets for financial abuse by someone close to them.

To help you detect and prevent elder financial abuse, we’ve outlined common fraud methods and tips for seniors to help prevent this abuse.

Common Elder Fraud Methods

Scammers are always coming up with new ways to trick the elderly into giving them their money or other assets. Many of these scams will occur over the phone, email, or text and have a sense of urgency to get the victim to act as quickly as possible without giving time to think it over or seek help.

 A few common scams include:

  • Grandparent scam, where criminals pose as relatives and claim to need money immediately
  • Tax or IRS impersonation scam, where criminals request to update your sensitive information such as your Social Security number and claim there is a financial penalty if the information is not provided
  • Health insurance or Medicare scam, where criminals ask to verify your identity for a new or updated Medicare card
  • Sweepstakes or lottery scam, where criminals claim the individual has won a lottery or sweepstake and then can obtain it for a “fee”
  • Home repair scam, where criminals quote a repair or service and then charge homeowners in advance for work that never gets provided.

Other methods of elder financial abuse can come from friends, relatives, and caretakers who may take advantage of the elderly and trick them into giving them their money or other assets.

How to Protect Yourself

  • Always use caution.
    • Be cautious of unsolicited phone calls, texts, emails, and door-to-door service offers. A good rule of thumb is if you are seeking out a company or service, you will find and contact them, not the other way around. Beware of emails with links and attachments and never click on them unless you recognize and trust the sender. If you are unsure whether the communication was legitimate and you know the sender, you can call them to verify the communication was indeed from them.
  • Protect your information.
    • Never give out sensitive information over the phone including your social security number, bank account information, or credit card number unless you initiated the phone call and can trust the individual on the other end of the line.
  • Stay up to date on current scams.
    • Always be aware of the latest methods that hackers are using to steal your money in addition to the common scams listed above. There are currently an abundance of COVID-19 scams to look out for as well as many others.
  • Keep an eye on your finances.
    • Know what is going on with your finances at all times and investigate any unusual activity on your account that you did not initiate. Do not give out bank account information to untrustworthy sources.
  • Plan ahead to protect your assets and to ensure your wishes are followed. 
    • Talk to someone at your financial institution, an attorney, or financial advisor about the best options for you. 
  • Get to know your banker and build a relationship with the people who handle your finances.
    • They can look out for any suspicious activity related to your account. 

Protecting Your Elderly Loved Ones

When the elderly feel isolated or neglected, they are more prone to become the victim of a scam because they feel like they have no one to turn to for help. Regular check-ins and staying connected with your loved ones are important in protecting the elderly from fraud.

Always be on the lookout for warning signs of financial abuse. Any of these “red flags” might be an indicator that an elder has been a victim:

  • Unusual activity on an elder’s bank account including large, unexplained withdrawals
  • Confusion or lack of awareness from the elder of their finances or bank activity
  • Unexplained attempts to wire large sums of money
  • Suspicious signatures on checks or other financial documents
  • ATM withdrawals by an elder who has never used a debit or ATM card
  • A caretaker, relative, or friend who suddenly takes over financial transactions on behalf of the elder without proper documentation, knowledge, or approval of the elder
  • A “new friend” who accompanies the elder to the bank
  • Altered wills or trust
  • Loss of property or valuable items

If you or an elderly loved one may have fallen victim to financial abuse, you should contact Adult Protective Services or your local police for help and report the incident to your bank. June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Take a moment to check in with the elderly in your life and speak up for those who may have been the victim of abuse.

Let’s all work together to help prevent elder abuse. Don’t let you or your loved ones fall victim to financial exploiters. Fill out our short contact form to speak with one of our experts about how we can help manage your finances securely.