In the United States, the rise in cases of elder financial abuse and exploitation is making our older loved ones increasingly vulnerable. At least $2.6 billion is lost every year due to elder financial abuse and exploitation reported by roughly 5 million older Americans. The cases of unreported abuse are likely exponentially higher.
As a concerned family member, what can you do? We’ll help you recognize how to identify whether it may be occurring to somebody close to you, know how to prevent it from happening to vulnerable loved ones, and understand the resources available for you to report and investigate and stop elder financial abuse.
Are Your Loved Ones Vulnerable?
There are several factors that make elderly individuals more vulnerable to financial abuse. For one thing, as we get older, we often get slower at processing information, and less likely to report the crime out of embarrassment or fear of losing our independence.
Another factor is that people living longer lives often experience cognitive impairment, like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, which can make them more susceptible to the influence of others—especially if they’re living alone or isolated from family and social support systems.
Often the person committing the abuse is someone the victim knows—a family member or close friend—who takes advantage of them financially. Because so many families are geographically separated from their loved ones, it can be hard to know who is involved with their finances and care as they age and grow more vulnerable.
3 Steps to Prevent Elder Financial Abuse
- Have a trusted designee put in charge of important accounts and investments. This person or another trusted person should also be given designated power of attorney.
- Track important accounts so that there is transparency about where money is going and alerts when there is suspected fraudulent activity.
- Stay connected to your loved ones and know the relationships in their lives. Make sure you connect with your loved one’s caregivers as well and can work together as a team. Follow up to make sure they are caring for your loved ones as they should.
For more information and recommended steps, check out this article from AARP.
Signs of Possible Financial Exploitation
If you have an elderly family member or friend and you’re concerned about their susceptibility to elder financial abuse, here are some things to look out for:
- Sudden changes to documents such as wills, trusts, or powers of attorney.
- Unexplained withdrawals from accounts, checks made To Cash, or transfers to unfamiliar or different accounts
- Unpaid bills or sudden money problems despite the availability of sufficient funds.
- Suddenly not having enough money to cover basic needs like food or medication.
- Reluctance to speak freely when discussing finances.
- Family members or caregivers who seem overly possessive.
- A new “best friend” that receives access to accounts and financial records but isn’t a close family member or caregiver.
If you notice any of these signs, it may be time to discuss your concerns with a trusted family member, a lawyer specializing in elder law issues, or even law enforcement officials (if the situation is urgent or dangerous).
More Resources to Help Report and Investigate Elder Abuse
You can report elder abuse by phone or online. Follow this link or call Georgia’s Aging and Disability Network at 1-866-552-4464.
The National Center on Elder Abuse also provides information on recognizing neglect and abuse of older adults, as well as links to state-by-state resources for reporting suspected abuse. It also provides research materials, educational tools, and public education campaigns designed to help raise awareness of elder abuse.
Finally, if you’re looking for legal support to help protect your loved ones, contact us today. We’re here to help set up legal safeguards and protection when it’s needed most.