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  • Writer's pictureMike V.

How to Detect Elder Financial Abuse: 15 Warning Signs a Loved One Needs Help

Older American adults are at an increased risk of becoming a victim of financial fraud or exploitation and criminals don't want you to know it. An estimated $36 billion is lost to these con artists each year. They gain the trust of our loved ones and use it against them in ways that leave victims emotionally and financially devastated.

Elderly Financial Abuse by Family Members

We often think that scammers who commit these crimes are hired caretakers, attorneys, banks, and neighbors. Sadly, upwards of 90% of abusers are family members or other persons held in confidence of the victim. Since family members, acquaintances, and even strangers can perpetuate this abuse, it's crucial that you don't dismiss unusual behavior even if the senior quickly dismisses it. Beyond the visible signs of missing property and forged documents, here are a few ways to detect elder financial abuse that might not seem obvious.

What to Look For

While any one action listed here may not, in isolation, confirm the existence of elder financial abuse, their very presence should warrant further investigation by a loved one. The following activities may indicate elder financial abuse has occurred or is happening right now:

Changes in Banking Habits

Bank statements no longer go to the senior's home, and they didn't sign up for e-statements.

Large or numerous bank withdrawals or transfers with little to no explanation from the senior.

Checks written as "extra special" or "early" birthday gifts.

Financial accounts show withdrawals from ATMs in locations that the senior has never visited.

The senior is suddenly unable to pay bills when there has been no change in income.

There is evidence that regular bills are past due, or the senior receives disconnection of service notices.

New or large sums of money sent via wire transfers to other family members or strangers.

New Relationships

The senior has a new relationship that seems "off." This individual often provides rides to the bank or other locations that will require the senior to handle money.

A new acquaintance is instantly considered a "best friend."

A new person has been added to the senior's banking or credit accounts.

The "best friend" is much younger and spends more time with the senior than you would typically expect.

A family member, new "best friend," or other person begins making financial decisions on behalf of the senior when not authorized to do so.

Other Changes

The senior has "lost" critical documents, e.g., a Social Security card, a driver's license, financial institution passwords, legal documents, etc.

Phone records show numerous phone calls from a new phone number.

Your loved one exhibits depression or new unexplained fears.

The elderly individual may be embarrassed, get defensive, resist talking about finances, or not be able to explain changes in their financial situation when asked. Don't let this deter you from following the evidence to wherever it may lead.

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