Did you know that older Americans are at great risk of financial exploitation, such as fraud or identity theft? According to the National Council on Aging, the estimated cost of elder financial abuse and fraud can be up to $36.5 billion annually. Further, financial abuse against the elderly is frequently committed by someone they know and trust, often a family member. To prevent you and/or your loved ones from being one of the estimated 5 million older Americans abused each year, review the following warning signs of elder financial abuse.
Unexplained Changes in Finances
Are there large account withdrawals or transfers between accounts that have no explanation? For example, is there a large withdrawal from an ATM in a different city? This, along with unexpected unpaid bills or eviction notices, could be dangerous indicators of someone gaining access to the older person’s finances.
Lack of Financial Understanding
Does someone who was previously keen of financial matters now seem to not understand their situation? Do they not recall a large check they wrote? This could not only be a sign of someone gaining access to their assets, but also of fading mental capacity, making them more vulnerable to exploitation.
Suspicious Characteristics of Finances
Do financial arrangements feel unprofessional or lack documentation? For example, do signatures on financial documents appear illegitimate? Older people tend to be at risk to pyramid schemes and other financial scams.
Isolation or Loneliness
Do relatives or friends rarely check in? An older person with limited contact with their loved ones could easily be taken advantage of by a stranger posing as a friend with good intentions.
As people age, they often invest in resources or renovations to their home in order to manage their daily lives. Do these services appear egregiously low quality or overpriced? Further, do the services seem unnecessary? For example, did they hire a company to perform repairs on their home even though everything is in good shape? Older people can be misled by service providers into paying for items at unfair prices that they may not even need.
Suspect Behavior of Relatives
Unfortunately, relatives are common perpetrators of financial elder abuse, as many feel that their loved one’s wealth and possessions are rightfully theirs or know the person’s finances can be a source of provision for them. Further, many older people may feel they have an obligation to provide for their relatives. If a relative suddenly makes large purchases outside of their usual price range or takes unwarranted interest in the spending habits of an older family member, it may be a sign that they are using that person’s finances for their own gain.
If you spot any of these signs, reach out to your loved ones. Offering your support and understanding can be a crucial step in protecting someone from abuse. Further, do not hesitate to involve authorities if you feel financial abuse is taking place. You can report elder abuse online at the website for the Georgia Department of Human Services or call the elder abuse hotline at 1-866-55AGING.