Financial elder abuse: Warning signs and preventative measures
Financial elder abuse is illegal or improper use of an elder’s funds, property or assets. Here's how you can prevent financial exploitation.
Jun. 23, 2022
June is elder awareness month. Sadly, our older population is often the target of financial scams, but there are things you can do to protect yourself or your loved ones.
Financial abuse can take many forms, from soliciting for fake charities to telemarketing scams and identity theft. Understanding the warning signs of financial elder abuse and how to prevent it can help protect from falling victim to these crimes.
Who is at risk of financial elder abuse?
Men and women of all races, economic status and health levels are at risk. Elderly people who live in social isolation, need help with the activities of daily living or are experiencing declining mental or physical health are typically the most vulnerable to financial elder abuse. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) noted a sharp increase in financial scams among adults 60 and over — these losses grew to $139 million in 2020 from $84 million in 2019, found in the FTC’s latest report Opens in a new window. to Congress1.
What are the warning signs of financial exploitation?
The National Center on Elderly Abuse (NCEA) defines financial or material exploitation as the illegal or improper use of an elder’s funds, property or assets. Common signs of financial exploitation may include:
Unexpected changes in bank account balances or banking practices
A new friend or trusted acquaintance making decisions on the elderly person’s behalf
Unauthorized or unexplained financial account withdrawals
Disappearance of funds or valuable possessions
Unanticipated transfer of assets to a family member or friend
Sudden changes to a will or other important financial documents
In addition to financial consequences, elder abuse can also have emotional effects such as depression, irritability, withdrawal from normal activities or strained relationships — warning signs that are easy to dismiss in aging individuals with declining health.
What can you do to prevent financial elder abuse?
While it’s important to understand the signs of elder abuse, it may be more productive to take steps to prevent abuse from occurring in the first place. Before these warning signs appear, one of the best safeguards against financial elder abuse is to create a strong support system to keep an eye on elderly family members and loved ones. A family conversation — or, more likely, a series of conversations over time — can help you gain insight into your loved one’s affairs and mental state.
However, if you recognize warning signs or suspect someone you know is being exploited, address the issue immediately. Getting the proper authorities involved or confronting the abuser directly is often the best way to prevent additional abuse. If you are concerned that an elderly family member may have been a victim of fraud or other abuse, ask him or her directly. One of the reasons elder abuse is underreported is that well-meaning witnesses are afraid to act unless they’re certain that abuse is occurring.
Tips to help protect yourself or your loved ones:
Keep financial and personal information in a safe place.
Keep track of accounts and legal documents.
Keep a record of financial transactions and changes to legal documents.
Read contracts and other documents carefully.
Tell someone if you or someone you know is experiencing financial abuse. Reach out to a friend, family member, health care or social services professional, legal or financial advisor, a member of your faith community or the local authorities.
For major decisions involving your home or other property, get your own professional legal advice before signing any documents.
Keep in touch with a variety of friends and family so you don't become isolated.
At CIBC, we place particular emphasis on protecting our clients from fraud. If we see suspicious activity, including things that could be elder financial exploitation, we will report it to the appropriate authorities. We also offer tools to help protect against fraud such as:
Account alerts that can be sent to your email or phone.
24/7 fraud monitoring for things like out-of-state and international transactions, suspicious activity, changes in contact information and more.
Trusteer Rapport to safeguard your online banking identity and stop malicious attempts against you.
To learn more about how we can help protect you and those you love from fraud, talk to one of our Personal Bankers or visit our website.