Tips, Trends and Tidbits

According to the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day website, financial exploitation is the fastest growing form of elder abuse. In fact, older people throughout the United States lose an estimated $2.6 billion annually to financial abuse and exploitation. These crimes involve someone improperly using an older adult’s money or belongings for their personal use, and it can happen to seniors of all social and economic backgrounds.

This crime can do irreparable damage to its victims’ finances and may ultimately deprive them of basic needs such as food, medical care or housing. Often, the victims of these crimes choose not to report them due to embarrassment or fear of retribution. Community financial institutions are in a unique position to help protect their accountholders from financial exploitation.

The following are often indicators of financial abuse. Watching for these indicators can help us as well as our accountholders identify and ultimately prevent elder financial abuse:

  • Unusually large, frequent or unexplained account withdrawals, uncharacteristic attempts to wire large sums of money, or checks written as “loans” or “gifts”
  • ATM withdrawals by an older person who has never used a debit or ATM card
  • New “best friends” accompanying an older person to his or her financial institution for withdrawals
  • Sudden nonsufficient funds activity, unpaid bills, eviction notices, or loss of belongings or property
  • Closing accounts or CDs without regard to penalty
  • Statements no longer going to the accountholder’s home
  • An older accountholder with confusion, fear, lack of awareness, failure to make eye contact, shame or reluctance to talk about the problem, or implausible explanations given about the person’s finances
  • Suspicious signatures on checks or outright forgery
  • A caretaker, relative or friend who suddenly begins conducting financial transactions on behalf of an elder without proper documentation
  • Altered wills and trusts

We all play a part in protecting our elders, if you suspect financial fraud is happening, report it immediately:

  • Contact their financial institution and explain your suspicions. Enlist help to stop and prevent its recurrence
  • Contact the local adult protective services agency for help. For state reporting numbers, visit the NCEA State Resources site or call the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116
  • Report all instances of elder financial abuse to local police