Taking Action Against Elder Abuse
Taking Action Against Elder Abuse
The financial abuse of elders can be a difficult topic to discuss, yet it happens around us all the time. Embarrassment, confusion, and fear often keep people from reporting elder abuse when they see it. Today we’re looking at some of the signs of elder financial abuse and what folks can do to protect themselves and their loved ones.
What qualifies as elder financial abuse?
Financial abuse takes many forms. Frequently this crime is perpetrated by someone the elder in question trusts, like a family member or caregiver. Some common examples include:
- Using an elder’s credit or debit card without their knowledge or permission
- Manipulating an elder into giving them money, whether by fear tactics or emotional appeals
- Gaslighting, or confusing an elder as to how their funds are used so that they don’t ask questions
- Taking over the role of Power of Attorney on an elder’s account
- Stealing an elder’s money or possessions
What are some signs of elder financial abuse?
Here are a few things that could be signs of elder financial abuse:
- An elder knows little about their current financial situation or account balances
- The elder suddenly makes frequent large withdrawals or wire transfers
- There are sudden changes to an elder’s will or Power of Attorney
- An elder has a “new best friend” who comes to the bank with them
- An elder has a change in mood, or reservations or confusion when speaking about financial matters
- An elder suddenly changes their address with the bank so that bank statements can be sent to another
- There are checks missing from an elder’s checkbook
What should I do if I’m a victim?
Tell someone. It’s important to report your experiences, and your financial institution is a good place to start. You may feel threatened by someone if they’re exploiting you financially, but someone like your banker can take the steps to make sure officials get involved. Not to mention, your banker can help you protect your money.
What should I do if I see elder financial abuse happen to someone else?
Don’t confront the abuser; these situations can become dangerous. According to the Nursing Home Abuse Center, you can report elder financial abuse to:
- Adult Protective Services
- Financial Institutions
- Law enforcement
- Nursing home ombudsmen (if the elder in question is in a nursing home)
What about telephone and internet scams?
Not every case of elder abuse is perpetrated by someone the elder knows. Scammers and phishers purposely target elders in a variety of ways. Here are a few of the common scams used to target elders.
- Sweetheart Scam: If someone takes sudden romantic interest online and then asks for money, that's a scam. Perpetrators of this scam often capitalize on the elder’s loneliness to manipulate them. Click here to visit the Fair Trade Commission’s website and learn more about this scam.
- Computer Maintenance Scam: Victims of this scam receive emails claiming to be from GeekSquad or other computer maintenance companies. These emails claim to be in reference to service plans, stating that the customer's card has been charged for renewal. When the customer calls the false company for cancellation, the scammers will pretend to over-refund, ask the customer to send part of the money back, and take the funds.
- Grandchild Scam: In this case, the scammer will call and pretend to be someone’s grandchild, using conversational clues to create a convincing story. They may be stranded with no money or claim to be in prison, asking the grandparent to send them money. The perpetrator of this scam often uses social engineering tactics to get what they want.
How can I protect myself from abuse?
- Be careful when adding people to your account or trusting them to help with your money.
- Keep your checkbook, statements, and debit/credit cards in a secure place in your home.
- Turn to your financial institution or attorney when it’s time to talk about financial planning. These are important conversations that should be held with discretion, and talking to a professional you know and trust will help make certain your finances are secure.
- Never sign a document you don’t understand. Always review with your financial advisor or attorney.
- Check your credit report once a year to make sure there’s nothing amiss.
- You deserve to be free from fear. If you feel that someone is threatening you, report it to your financial institution or Adult Protective Services.
Elder financial abuse is a serious topic and one that can be scary, and by no means does this article cover every facet of this topic. It’s important to stay educated, and if we follow good financial advice such as that presented here, we can protect ourselves and our loved ones.
“Achy Fakey Heart,” Federal Trade Commission: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2021/02/achy-fakey-heart
“Elder Financial Abuse,” Nursing Home Abuse Center: https://www.nursinghomeabusecenter.com/elder-abuse/types/financial-abuse/
“Protect the Elderly from Financial Exploitation,” American Bankers Association: https://www.aba.com/advocacy/community-programs/consumer-resources/protect-your-money/elderly-financial-abuse#