Warning signs of financial elder abuse

Seniors face a unique set of risks, especially where financial abuse is concerned. Many have accumulated wealth, but may lack the experience or knowledge necessary to confidently manage that wealth on their own, leading them to rely on others. This is especially true if they are a widower or widow who didn’t regularly manage the family finances before the loss of a spouse. Seniors are also more likely to have a disability or dependency that makes them more vulnerable to exploitation.

Who is at risk?

A senior may be at greater risk if they:

  • Live primarily in isolation
  • Experience persistent loneliness
  • Recently lost a loved one
  • Suffer from physical or mental disabilities
  • Are uncomfortable or inexperienced with financial matters

Sadly, the majority of financial exploitation or fraud committed against the elderly is perpetrated by family members. Relatives who are unemployed, facing dire financial straits, or suffer from addiction have been known to prey on elderly family members.

Warning signs

Financial exploitation and abuse can take many forms, from using money and property without permission, to theft, to manipulation and coercion. Such crimes can be as simple as overcharging for goods to forging signatures on legal documents. Some of the more common signs that financial elder abuse has occurred may include:

  • Bank account withdrawals and charges the victim cannot explain
  • Unpaid/overdue bills, despite the victim seemingly having sufficient funds
  • Ongoing financial arrangements that the victim does not understand or recall agreeing to
  • Missing property
  • Potentially forged signatures on checks and other financial documents

If you suspect that you or someone you know has been the victim of financial elder abuse, don’t hesitate to contact your local police department. Additionally, you can use the ElderCare Locator at ElderCare.gov to find appropriate resources in your community.

If you're concerned that a senior in your life may be at risk of financial abuse or manipulation, they may benefit from nonprofit, representative payee services from CrissCross, a division of MMI. Call 866.380.9708 or visit CrissCross.org to learn more.

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