3 Signs of Elder Financial Abuse

A bank withdrawal that's not remembered, a change in investments, increasingly confusing personal accounting. Are these  just “senior” moments? Possibly. But they could also indicate somethings more sinister.

Elder financial abuse against those aged 65 or older constitutes 35 percent of all financial exploitation in the United States every year. Financial fraud can take many different forms - from blatant stealing of funds, to investments and phone scams, to identity theft - and for many seniors, a lack of knowledge about this exploitation and a lack of independent care makes them easy victims.

The following warning signs could indicate that something fishy is going on with your aging loved one’s finances.

1. Sudden changes in financial accounts - without your senior’s knowledge

The biggest and most obvious red flag signifying senior financial abuse is a sudden change in a financial account without your senior’s knowledge. This can take many forms, from large withdrawals that they don’t remember making to forged signatures that transfer account ownership.

Differentiating between the forgetfulness that accompanies dementia and the forgetfulness that could be putting your senior in danger isn’t always easy, but when in doubt, it’s better to assume caution. Sit down with your senior and examine finances together. If signatures look off or there have been uncharacteristic financial behaviors, take steps to secure your loved one’s assets. If it seems possible that it was a one-time strange occurrence, continue to regularly monitor their finances in case something more is amiss.

2. Questionable relationships

One of the most difficult aspects of senior financial fraud is facing the fact that 9 out of 10 cases are perpetrated by someone the senior knows and trusts, be it a family member, friend, long-time business partner, etc., and they typically fit a certain profile.

According to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine, "Perpetrators are most likely to be adult children or spouses, and they are more likely to be male, to have a history of past or current substance abuse, to have mental or physical health problems, to have a history of trouble with the police, to be socially isolated, to be unemployed or have financial problems, and to be experiencing major stress.”

Keep this in mind when thinking about the relationships in your loved one’s life. Although it is not easy to confront a longtime relation, it could be the key to saving your senior’s financial security.

3. Changes in investments

Most seniors use their investments to provide safe, secure income. However, brokers can change this preference to “trading,” without their clients’ knowledge, putting regular income at risk with the benefit of greater personal commission. Check in with your loved ones about their investments and ask if they’ve been promised unlikely financial gains from their stock portfolio, and request to see their investments and look for frequent or nonsensical changes. Also check to see how often their account statements have been coming in; irregular statements could be a sign of unscrupulous investors.

If you or your loved one are concerned about financial safety and would like guidance about what steps to take, our Client Care Liaisons can help. Contact us at 1-844-505-0004 to schedule your free in-home consultation and to talk to your Client Care Liaison for more information.