Elder financial abuse has its own set of red flags, including unusual wire transfers, a new “best friend,” and forged signatures. If you are close to an elderly person, either through a personal or professional relationship, you may be the only person who can identify the signs of elder financial abuse. Take note of the following signs and be sure to report your suspicions to the relevant authorities.
Red Flags of Elder Financial Abuse
The following are some of the most common signs of elder financial abuse.
Unusual charges. If you have access to an elderly person’s credit or debit card statements, question charges that seem out of character.
New names on bank accounts. Scammers may ingratiate themselves to their elderly target by offering to help pay bills. To facilitate these payments, they may persuade an elderly person to add their name to a bank account.
New friendships and romantic relationships. Sadly, new friends should be regarded with suspicion, especially if they are outside the elderly person’s usual social sphere. This is especially true if the elderly person made a new friend online. Various types of scams begin with a supposed online friendship. Wire transfers and checks made out to unfamiliar names may also be cause for concern. Social isolation negatively affects many seniors, and they may be especially vulnerable to the promise of friendship.
Anxiety surrounding money. If a previously financially stable elderly person has new fears surrounding their finances, they may be a victim of elder financial abuse.
Missing valuables. Theft is a common problem in nursing homes. If you know an elderly relative has a particularly valuable item, like an engagement ring, make sure to ask questions if you notice it has gone missing.
Forged signatures. Elder financial abuse often involves a fake signature. Make sure you have a copy of their genuine signature to compare.
Large withdrawals. Larger-than-usual bank withdrawals, especially if the senior is accompanied by an unfamiliar person, should raise red flags.
Unexpected family involvement. Relatives who did not have a close relationship with the elderly person before their physical or cognitive decline should be regarded with suspicion if they suddenly believe they should be added to a will or a deed.
Sudden changes to a will. If changes to a beneficiary status are sudden or seem unusual, concerned individuals may want to examine the possibility of undue influence.
Unusual wire transfers. If an elderly person makes large wire transfers, especially to unknown parties, a concerned relative or caregiver could make a call to Adult Protective Services.
Unpaid bills or insufficient funds. It should set off alarm bells if there is suddenly no money in the elderly person’s usual accounts.
New Powers of Attorney. In many cases, financial exploitation begins with a newly designated power of attorney. This type of abuse is often perpetrated by lawyers, family members, and even strangers.
Securities fraud. Financial advisers and stock brokers have been known to financially abuse their clients. They might create a joint account with an elderly person for the purpose of misappropriating funds. An adviser or a broker may also engage in securities fraud by placing the elderly person’s investment portfolio in high-risk securities that result in major losses for the senior but steep commissions for the financial professional. The elderly person may not even realize they have such risky investments – forgery and manipulation are often mentioned in cases of financial elder abuse involving a stock broker.
Lack of access to account statements. If someone is abusing their power of attorney or role as a financial adviser, they may cut off the elderly person’s access to an account.
Why Elder Financial Abuse Goes Unreported
These types of crimes often go unreported because they are committed by a loved one or a professional in a position of trust. The elderly person may also experience shame and not want their victimization to come to light. In some cases, the elderly person may not have realized what happened or realized too late.
Many states do not require financial institutions to report suspected financial abuse. In cases where financial abuse happens at the hands of a family member, financial institutions or loved ones familiar with the elderly person’s finances may be in the best position to make a report.
Why Does Elder Financial Abuse Matter?
Elder financial abuse is a significant threat to an elderly person’s financial well-being. According to the AARP, the average victim of elder financial abuse loses $120,000. Financial exploitation is one of the most common types of elder abuse, and it often occurs alongside other forms of elder abuse.
Where Should I Report Elder Financial Abuse?
If you suspect someone of stealing money from an elderly person, you can call 911. Elder financial abuse can also be reported to Adult Protective Services. You will want to provide information on the type of suspected abuse, the identity of the person you suspect, and the time and date of the alleged abuse. In cases where the perpetrator is a stock broker or a financial adviser, they can be reported to a regulator like the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).
For questions about civil or criminal charges, consider contacting an elder abuse attorney. Attorneys specializing in these cases can advise how much money a victim might recover as well as the penalties a perpetrator might be required to pay. Elder abuse attorneys can also increase the odds that the wronged party receives the settlement they deserve.