According to the National Adult Protective Services Association, the “vast majority” of cases reported to its member agencies involve people the victim knows, including relatives, caregivers, neighbors, and friends.
AARP’s recent article entitled “Spot the Red Flags of Elder Financial Abuse” explains that financial exploitation can range from stealing someone’s Social Security check to forging financial documents to misappropriating cash, jewelry, and other property. According to the National Council on Aging, financial fraud costs seniors at least $36.5 billion annually.
Here are some signs and circumstances that can help you identify elder financial abuse and perhaps prevent it from happening to you or someone you love:
Unusual financial activity. A big red flag of potential financial abuse is an unexplained activity in an older person’s accounts. Ask about any large withdrawals and unpaid bills to ensure there are no questionable credit card charges. Stop any bank transfers or recurring transactions the account holder does not remember making. Review aging loved ones’ bank and credit card statements regularly with them to help guard against fraud. You may also create a transparent system that lets both of you monitor financial activity, perform essential record-keeping, and keep the lines of communication over money matters open.
New ‘friends’ or helpers. Those seniors who live alone are particularly susceptible to financial exploitation. Wrongdoers can more readily hide their misdeeds if no one else is around. Experts caution that perpetrators of financial abuse, especially new acquaintances, frequently try to close out others and limit relatives’ contact with a vulnerable, older adult. Use caution with newcomers who try to insert themselves into a senior’s life in a way that makes them indispensable in the eyes of the victim.
Cognitive decline or loss of financial acumen. If a senior has known cognitive impairments like Alzheimer’s or dementia or is beginning to show a loss of financial sense, a trusted individual may need to step in to help immediately. Financial fraud can quickly happen when a third party has access to an older adult’s sensitive private data, such as account numbers, passwords, or Social Security numbers. Many older people also require help with money management tasks.
Mobility or frailty issues. Even those without cognitive impairments may be susceptible to financial abuse if they have physical disabilities or other problems that prevent them from driving or otherwise getting around. Therefore, seniors with mobility issues who cannot go to the bank on their own or who are not good with computers may not have the physical ability or the aptitude to do remote banking. They may rely on another to handle routine transactions, such as deposits, withdrawals, or transfers.
Reference: AARP (Feb. 28, 2022) “Spot the Red Flags of Elder Financial Abuse”