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.
AARP’s recent article entitled “Spot the Red Flags of Elder Financial Abuse” explains that financial exploitation can range from stealing someone’s Social Security check to forging financial documents to misappropriating cash, jewelry and other property. Financial fraud costs seniors at least $36.5 billion annually, according to the National Council on Aging.
Here are some signs and circumstances that can help you identify elder financial abuse and perhaps prevent it from happening to you or someone you love:
Unusual financial activity. A big red flag of potential financial abuse is unexplained activity in an older person’s accounts. Ask about any large withdrawals and unpaid bills to make certain sure there are no questionable credit card charges. Stop any bank transfers or recurring transactions the account holder does not remember making. Review an aging loved one’s bank and credit card statements regularly with him or her to help guard against fraud. You may also create a transparent system that lets both of you monitor financial activity and perform basic record-keeping, and keep the lines of communication over money matters open.
New ‘friends’ or helpers. Those seniors who live alone are particularly susceptible to financial exploitation. Wrongdoers can more readily hide their misdeeds, if no one else is around. Experts caution that perpetrators of financial abuse, especially new acquaintances, frequently try to box out others and limit relatives’ contact with a vulnerable, older adult. Use caution with newcomers who try to insert themselves into a senior’s life in a way that makes them indispensable in the eyes of the victim.
Cognitive decline or loss of financial acumen. If a senior has known cognitive impairments like Alzheimer’s or dementia or is beginning to show a loss of financial acumen, a trusted individual may need to immediately step in to help. Financial fraud can easily happen when a third party has access to an older adult’s sensitive private data, such as account numbers, passwords or Social Security number. Many older people also require help with money management tasks.
Mobility or frailty issues. Even those without cognitive impairments may be susceptible to financial abuse if they have physical disabilities or other issues that prevent them from driving or otherwise getting around. Therefore, seniors with mobility issues who are unable to go to the bank on their own, or who are not good with computers, may not have the physical ability or the aptitude to do remote banking. They may have to rely on another to handle routine transactions, such as deposits, withdrawals, or transfers.
Reference: AARP (Feb. 28, 2022) “Spot the Red Flags of Elder Financial Abuse”