What Can You Do to Prevent Elder Financial Abuse?

July 28, 2021
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Prevent Elder Financial Abuse
Prevent Elder Financial Abuse

People over 50 years old control over 70% of the nation’s wealth, and as such, they are increasingly becoming targets for financial abuse. Elder abuse has a broad definition that can be characterized by many things, but elder financial abuse or exploitation occurs when a person misuses or takes the assets of an older, vulnerable adult for his or her own personal benefit. This type of abuse can be carried out by members of the older adult’s family or by fraudsters outside of the family.

Elder financial abuse can be very difficult to detect, but the older adults in our lives depend on us to advocate for their financial – and overall – wellbeing. Here are some signs that a loved one may be the victim of elder financial abuse:

• Valuable items that have gone missing
• Large withdrawals, checks made to cash, or unusually low bank balances
• Large credit card transactions
• Forgeries on legal documents or checks
• A new close companion coupled with isolation from other friends and family
• A new name added to a bank account
• Indications of fear of a caregiver
• Unpaid bills

There can be other signs of abuse, but those listed above may be of the most simple to spot. If you notice any signs, there are steps you can take to report the abuse. Even in cases where you are not completely sure that anything malicious is taking place, taking action immediately is the best course of action. 

If you suspect that someone you know is being financially abused, you have several options:

● Report the possible crime by contacting your local Adult Protective Services

Adult Protective Services (APS) works to keep vulnerable adults safe from abuse. A member of a local APS branch can investigate possible cases of financial abuse and offer assistance when needed.

● Contact the financial institutions where the elder holds accounts

Financial institutions can help resolve any discrepancies and see if financial exploitation might be taking place. In some cases, workers at financial institutions were the first ones to report cases of financial abuse.

● Make a police report

Working with the police is crucial if you want to hold an abuser criminally accountable. Financial exploitation is a crime, and perpetrators have received long prison sentences for elder financial abuse

● Contact your District Attorney’s office

Many states have elder abuse units that are committed to combatting neglect, abuse, and financial exploitation of seniors.

Financial abuse can be harder to spot than the other types of elder abuse as it may not physically affect the victim. In fact, elder financial abuse may go on for years before it’s finally caught. Long-term consequences of elder financial exploitation can be devastating. Older Americans may lose their entire life savings and no longer be able to afford rent, nursing home care, or basic living expenses.

It is crucially important that we, and the older adults in our lives, are well educated on the subject of elder abuse so that we can be vigilant in protecting their well-being.

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