Preventing Elder Financial Abuse: Red Flags to Watch For
Seeing your parents, grandparents, and other relatives grow old can be bittersweet. Though there are many joys in getting to one’s golden years, there are also a number of new areas of concern that responsible caretakers and relatives should be aware of, including elder financial abuse.
Elder financial abuse (also called financial exploitation) is any fraud or otherwise illegal or improper activity that uses the assets, belongings, benefits, or resources of an older person for financial gain. Unfortunately, this abuse is often perpetrated by the people responsible for a senior’s care, including their children and other caregivers. If you’re a caregiver or loved one of an elder, here are some examples of financial abuse and fraud to be aware of – and some red flags to watch out for.
Examples of elder financial abuse
There are a number of different scams and tactics used to financially exploit elderly people, including:
- Coercion: Forcing the elder to sign away their rights or possessions, often using emotional manipulation – like promising to help or provide care only if they comply
- Forgery: Faking the elder’s signature on a check or other document, such as a will, deed, or power of attorney
- Fraud: Wrongful or criminal deception. Fraud targeted toward the elderly often uses deceiving language, exaggerated claims, or scare tactics to convince them that they need a particular service or product.
- Theft: Stealing money from an elderly person, charging purchases to them without their permission, and even stealing their identity
Fraud, scam, and illegitimate offers
Here are a few examples of common scams, fraud, and other illegitimate products and solicitations targeting seniors:
- Fake investment, insurance, or charitable giving offers
- Impersonating an agent from well-known organizations, such as the IRS or AARP
- Pharmaceutical/health/diet products that are unreasonably expensive and/or don’t work
- Lottery or sweepstakes “winnings” that come out of the blue
- Tech support for real or made-up computer or smartphone issues
Though the examples above are not always fraudulent, it’s important to be aware of typical approaches these scammers use so you can better protect those who are most at risk of being victimized: over half of fraud victims in the U.S. are individuals over 50, according to the AARP.
Red flags for elder financial abuse
Hills Bank has measures in place to try and detect fraudulent activity. There are also steps you can take to better protect the senior(s) in your life.
If you’re responsible for the care of an elder, or even are just visiting an elderly loved one, you can make him or her aware of the different ways scammers and other unscrupulous people may try to take advantage of them. Knowledge is the best form of protection!
With the elder’s permission, you can also keep an eye on their finances. Here are a few financial red flags that may be signs of elder abuse:
- Frequent large, unexplained withdrawals
- Sudden overdraft or non-sufficient funds alerts
- Overdue notices from bills or services, which may indicate a loss of funds or access to funds
- Closing or opening accounts without regard to penalties or services
- Uncharacteristic attempts to wire large sums of money
If a senior in your life has another caregiver you interact with, there are also some behavioral red flags to consider:
- A caregiver or other individual shows excessive interest in the elder’s finances or assets, does not allow the elder to speak for him/herself, or is reluctant to leave the elder’s side during conversations
- The elder shows an unusual degree of fear or submissiveness towards a caregiver, or expresses a fear of eviction or nursing home placement if money is not given to the caregiver
- You are unable to speak directly with the elder, despite repeated attempts to contact him or her
In general, you should watch for a sudden change in an elder’s financial situation or accounts, as well as changes in their outlook or behavior. Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a change in alertness, unusual depression, and other signs of emotional stress could mean that he or she is experiencing elder abuse – whether related to their finances or otherwise.