Older adults may face many challenges but one with devastating consequences can occur if they find themself a victim of elder financial abuse. Unfortunately, this phenomenon is growing – in both occurrences and number of victims – with financial scams and fraud being among the most common tactics.
However, one of the best steps for families to help their loved ones is to discuss the prevalence of financial abuse, examples of how easily it can occur and the measures they can put in place to lower the risk.
What is elder financial abuse?
Elder financial abuse is the illegal or unauthorized use of an older person’s money, property, or assets. It’s exploiting their financial resources for personal gain, often resulting in significant monetary loss, emotional distress and even physical harm.
Although a person of any age can become a victim of financial abuse, it often happens more to older adults.
Why are older adults at higher risk of financial abuse?
It’s thought that social isolation, physical and cognitive decline and dependence on others may contribute to its occurrence. Consider the following:
- Cognitive decline: This can make awareness of fraudulent schemes more challenging.
- Isolation: Seniors might not have access to outside news or be alerted to potential scams.
- Physical health issues: Conditions like vision or hearing loss can make it challenging to interpret communications accurately.
- Dependence on caregivers: This can lead to misplaced trust or fear of retaliation of not being able to remain at home or receive compassionate assistance.
- Lack of familiarity with technology: The speed of the digital world can make it increasingly difficult for older adults to recognize online scams or threats.
- Generational values: Growing up in an era when handshake agreements were standard, this trust can easily be exploited.
Examples and warning signs of elder financial abuse
Using funds without permission, fraudulent telemarketing calls, identity theft and persuading an older adult to sign over deeds or make changes to their will can all be examples of elder financial abuse.
The U.S. Department of Justice has listed the following as warning signs that may provide clues that a loved one is being taken advantage of:
- Sudden changes in bank accounts, including an unexplained withdrawal of large sums of money by a person accompanying the elder
- The inclusion of additional names on an elder’s bank signature card
- Unauthorized withdrawal of the elder’s funds using the elder’s ATM card
- Abrupt changes in a will or other financial documents
- Unexplained disappearance of funds or valuable possessions
- Substandard care being provided or bills left unpaid despite the availability of adequate financial resources
- Discovery of an elder’s signature being forged for financial transactions or for the titles of his/her possessions
- Sudden appearance of previously uninvolved relatives claiming rights to an elder’s property or possessions
- Unexplained sudden transfer of assets to a family member or someone outside the family
- The provision of services that are not necessary
- An elder’s report of financial exploitation.
Steps to protect your loved ones from elder financial abuse
Taking these steps can help spot potential elder financial abuse opportunities or catch them sooner.
- Stay informed: Keep up to date and share the details of the latest scams that target older adults.
- Regular communication: Communicate with your loved ones regularly and watch for any inconsistencies or behaviors that might signal abuse.
- Limit a caregiver’s access to finances: Check the background records of caregivers and limit their access to bank accounts or credit cards.
- Daily money management: Consider management services to assist with bill payments, bank statement reconciliations and other financial tasks.
- Legal protection: Set up a power of attorney for finances so a trusted individual can make financial decisions if your loved one is unable to.
- Secure personal information: Remind your loved ones never to share personal information over the phone. Perhaps they could talk to a family member before making on-line financial transactions.
- Review financial statements: Regularly review bank and credit card statements for any unauthorized or suspicious transactions.
- Encourage skepticism: Discuss the risk of unsolicited offers. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it likely is.
- Educate about technology: Provide basic training on online safety. Make sure they are familiar with the signs of phishing emails or fraudulent websites.
- Report suspicions: If you suspect elder financial abuse, don’t hesitate to report it – either to local law enforcement, Adult Protective Services, or other relevant agencies.
Retirement living in Wadsworth, Illinois
Galloway Senior Living, locally owned and operated, provides luxury and quality care for families in our community.
Assisted Living at Galloway Senior Living offers beautiful and contemporary private residences that range from alcove studios to two-bedrooms and include high-end stainless-steel appliances, maple hardwood cabinets, cultured marble countertops and thoughtfully curated décor and colors.
Our Memory Care community offers a family kitchen, dining room, walking garden, and lounge.
Our services include:
- 24-hour certified nursing assistants, on-staff licensed nurses, medication management, and on-site physician visits
- COVID-19 safety protocols
- Assistance with daily tasks
- Readily available safe transportation
- A fall-reduction program
- In-unit emergency response systems including an electronic monitoring system for exit doors
- On-site entertainment and activities personalized to reflect the residents’ preferences
- Housekeeping and linen services including personal laundry
Amenities you’ll find at Galloway Senior Living include:
- Country Café and Convenience Store
- Salon and Spa
- Theater with 85” television
- Activity and Craft Center
- Game Room
- Library and Business Center
- Fitness Center
If you or your family is considering retirement living in Wadsworth, Illinois, we hope you will visit our community at Galloway Senior Living. We are a trusted resource and are here to answer any questions.
We also invite you to download our complimentary information, Family Decision Toolkit: How to Choose the Right Senior Living Community.