Elder financial exploitation extends far beyond random con artists bombarding older adults with robocalls and phishing emails. 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.
Financial exploitation can range from stealing someone’s Social Security check to forging financial documents to misappropriating cash, jewelry and other assets. Such financial fraud costs older adults at least $36.5 billion annually, the National Council on Aging estimates.
Here are telltale signs and circumstances that can help you spot elder financial abuse — and possibly prevent it from happening to you or someone you love.
Unusual financial activity
A major red flag of potential financial abuse is “unexplained activity in an older person’s accounts,” says Stephanie Genkin, a certified financial planner in New York.
Inquire about large withdrawals and unpaid bills and make sure there are no questionable credit card charges. Stop any bank transfers or recurring transactions the account holder does not recall making. It’s not uncommon for older individuals to forget things from time to time, but major financial dealings they have no memory of requesting or authorizing, or that they have difficulty explaining, should set off alarm bells.
Genkin suggests periodically reviewing an aging loved one’s bank and credit card statements with them to help guard against fraud. If possible, create a transparent system that allows both of you to monitor financial activity and perform basic record-keeping, and keep the lines of communication over money matters open.
New ‘friends’ or helpers
Individuals who live alone are particularly susceptible to financial exploitation. Wrongdoers can more readily hide their misdeeds if no one else is around.