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Financial Fraud and Exploitation

Financial exploitation of older adults comes at a great cost - victims lose as much as $36.5 billion each year and their social and psychological well-being can be significantly impacted.  Financial exploitation can be difficult to detect as it is often carried out by family members, trusted friends, and caregivers, and therefore is under-reported. 


Warning Signs 

  • Unusual financial activity such as large or frequent withdrawals or transfers, multiple checks for cash or to an individual, questionable credit card charges, and unknown recurring transactions 

  • Unusual or sudden changes in spending patterns including excessive purchases 

  • Changes to wills and other financial documents

  • Fraudulent signatures

  • New friends and “helpers”  who have recently become involved in the older adult’s life or relatives showing a new interest in the older adult

  • Cognitive decline or a loss of financial acumen

  • New concerns or worries from the older adult about their finances


Preventative Steps

  1. While the older adult can still make financial decisions, ensure that they have designated a trusted source as their agent for Power of Attorney for Finance

  2. Ask the older adult to appoint a trusted contact for accounts at financial institutions. This way there is a second person to contact when there is questionable activity.

  3. Use prepaid credit cards or  services such as  True Link  or MyFloc to pay for expenses so that there are purchase limits. 

  4. Simplify accounts, set up automatic payments, and use direct deposit to limit the risk of financial abuse.

  5. Use technology tools such as EverSafe, Carefull, and LifeLock to detect and notify of suspicious activity .

  6. Stay in touch with your relative. Isolation is one of the leading reasons that older adults fall victim to scams. 

  7. Know your relative’s caregivers. Personal boundaries can get blurred, increasing the opportunity for abuse.  Using a homecare agency instead of private caregivers provides an additional level of protection.

  8. Opt out of email mailing lists and use SPAM filters.

  9. Silence or prohibit calls and texts from people who are not listed in the phone’s contacts.

  10. Make sure that the older adult’s phone number is listed in the Do Not Call Registry.

  11. Use a phone app like Truecaller to block SPAM calls or a specialized phone service such as teleCalm to manage calls.

  12. Be informed. Older adults are common targets for scams, which are becoming ever more frequent. 


Reporting Financial Abuse and Exploitation

  • If you believe your loved one is in imminent danger, call 911.

  • Report any suspicions of financial exploitation to your local Adult Protective Services program.

  • Call the local police or sheriff’s non-emergency number to make a report. 

  • Contact your local district attorney’s office or legal aid program to explore legal options.

  • The National Elder Fraud Hotline can guide you through reporting procedures and connect you with other assistance.

  • If the alleged abuse takes place at a nursing home or assisted living facility, contact the local ombudsman who serves as an advocate for residents.

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