In the United States, elder financial abuse is a silent problem that not only deprives seniors of their home and savings but also their dignity and sense of security. According to the FBI, seniors approximately lose more than $3 billion each year to financial scams. Scammers target seniors because they’ve significant savings and they tend to trust others easily. Here are some useful insights on elder financial abuse:

1. What is elder financial abuse?

Elder financial abuse or elder abuse fraud can be defined as someone illegally using an elder’s money or assets such as property or land for their own personal use. Elderly people are easy victims for financial abuse for a number of reasons. Some of them are:

  • They may have mental impairments. With declining abilities, elders have to rely on others to conduct various financial transactions on their behalf.
  • They easily trust others. Elders often give power of attorney to adult children, financial caregivers, or trustees, who sometimes misuse the power of attorney to either siphon off money or illegally transfer the property to their name.

2. Different forms of elder abuse fraud:

Elder financial abuse can take many forms. Some of the common types are:

  • Taking money out of joint banking accounts without their knowledge
  • Forging a signature on pension checks or property papers
  • Misusing a power of attorney
  • Stealing money or possessions
  • Misusing bank or credit cards
  • Selling or transferring a senior’s property without their consent
  • Forcing seniors to lend money and not returning when requested
  • Changing a senior’s will, trusts, or inheritance without their knowledge

3. Elder financial abuse is often underreported

Elder financial abuse leaves seniors not just financially devastated but also emotionally broken. Often seniors who are victims of such abuse are reluctant to speak out because:

  • The perpetrators are often close family members such as adult children, relatives, or trusted caregivers
  • They’re afraid of what will happen to them if they report the abuse
  • Sometimes, seniors don’t have the mental and physical capacity to report the abuse

4. Warning signs of financial abuse:

Here’re some signs that indicate a senior may be a victim of financial abuse:

  • Unusual and frequent bank withdrawals
  • Not meeting financial obligations
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Lack of basics such as food, clothing, and other necessities
  • Continuous withdrawals despite penalties for early withdrawal
  • Abrupt changes in wills and powers of attorney
  • Changes in beneficiaries on insurance policies

5. What should you do when witnessing elder abuse fraud?

If an older adult is in immediate and life-threatening danger, call 911. Also, anyone who suspects that an older adult is being mistreated can contact an elder financial abuse attorney.

If you’re looking for an attorney who has worked on financial crimes related to elder abuse, get in touch with David L. Fleck.  He’s an accomplished fraud attorney who works closely with federal investigators, local detectives, and forensic accountants to investigate financial crimes to secure courtroom wins for victims of elder abuse fraud. 

6. How to prevent elder financial abuse?

Here’re some ideas to prevent elder financial abuse:

  • Don’t share confidential information with strangers.
  • Reduce the opportunity for phone scams by registering with the Do Not Call registry.
  • Protect personal information. Don’t use public Wi-Fi for financial transactions. Shred documents containing financial details before throwing them.
  • When hiring a caregiver, run a background check.
  • Consult with a trusted family member before giving anyone power of attorney or making changes to the will.