The average American retires at 63. That’s roughly 40 years of hard work to gain financial stability. The goal? A comfortable life post-retirement.
But what happens when someone robs older adults of their finances?
Elder financial abuse is a pressing problem that deprives seniors of their dignity. In fact, victims of financial abuse lose an estimated $36.5 billion each year.
Unfortunately, elder financial abuse often comes from close quarters. And no matter how big or small the deception, it can leave seniors emotionally and economically devastated.
So, what can you do to protect your loved ones? By understanding elder financial abuse, learning how to spot the red flags, and putting preventative measures in place.
How to Spot Elder Financial Abuse: Watch Out for These 7 Tell-Tale Signs
Financial abuse can be hard to detect, given the private nature of people’s economic standing. It can be even harder to safeguard an elder who cannot care for themselves or know what’s going on with their money and assets.
Hence, it’s up to you to look out for these seven common warning signs of elder financial abuse.
1. Forged Signatures
Many older adults trust family members and other caregivers to perform essential activities around the home. This allows outsiders free access to the senior’s personal belongings, including financial documents.
A dishonest caregiver can leverage this opportunity for financial gain. If you suspect someone is duping your loved one, review their passbooks, checkbooks, and bank-related papers to compare signatures and dates. Watch out for unfamiliar penmanship, indications of retouching (like whiteout), or printed signatures.
2. Unusual Financial Activity
Since banking activities tend to follow a pattern, any sudden and unexplained changes can be a red flag. Unfamiliar third-party bill payments, requests to make payments on someone else’s credit card, and large withdrawals could all hint at something nefarious at play.
Check any bank transfers or recurring transactions the older adult does not recall making. While it’s normal for seniors to forget things, any significant financial dealings they have no memory of requesting or authorizing should set off alarm bells in your head.
Also, review the older adult’s bank and credit card statements periodically to protect them from fraud. If possible, create a joint account that lets both of you monitor financial activity, keep basic records, and maintain open communication about money.
3. Unpaid Bills and Expenses
The starkest sign of elder financial abuse is outstanding bills/personal expenses that the victim has successfully managed in the past but is now struggling to pay. Although unpaid bills can result from dementia, Alzheimer’s, or plain forgetfulness, they can also point towards something more sinister. Look for fluctuations in payments or collection efforts for unpaid bills.
Elder financial abuse must be handled with caution. Contact an elder abuse attorney in Utah to investigate your suspicions and suggest a satisfactory course of action.
4. Sudden New Companions
Seniors who live alone are particularly prone to elder financial abuse. Many wrongdoers specifically target isolated elders because it’s easier for them to hide their misdeeds when no one is watching.
Be wary of new acquaintances or romantic interests in a senior’s life, especially if they try to box out others and limit contact with relatives. For example, a new friend may stop the family from seeing the senior by constantly saying they’re not available.
Also, exercise caution around newcomers who insert themselves into an older person’s life in a way that makes them indispensable in the victim’s eyes. Many schemers are initially incredibly helpful, taking the senior to the store, doctor’s appointments, restaurants, and of course, the bank.
5. Lack of Trust
Has your beloved senior stopped talking to you recently? Do they never answer your calls? Chances are they’re experiencing some form of abuse. Seniors who experience elder abuse often feel ashamed and embarrassed to share their feelings with friends/family, causing them to withdraw from the world.
Look for behavioral changes if you believe your loved one is being exploited. In case you need help, talk to a elder abuse attorney to figure out how you should approach the situation without troubling the senior.
6. Loss of Financial Acumen
When an older person has known cognitive issues and is beginning to display a loss of financial awareness, a family member or trusted individual must step in to help immediately.
Unscrupulous neighbors or friends can start exerting influence over seniors with cognitive impairments, persuading them to take financial actions they would not make otherwise.
Financial fraud can occur when a third party has access to the senior’s private data, including account numbers, passwords, or Social Security numbers. Make sure these details are closely guarded and only provided to close, reliable individuals when necessary. You can also entrust these credentials to the senior’s elder law attorney in Utah.
7. Changes in Wills/Power of Attorney
Financial power of attorney allows a designated person to make financial decisions on a senior’s behalf. Given the seriousness of this role, it’s wise to double-check any sudden name changes, particularly when the transfer is not to a family member or long-standing friend. It could be a stranger trying to take advantage of the senior.
Also, watch out for name changes in other essential documents like credit cards, investment accounts, home deeds, trusts, and wills. If you suspect your loved one is being extorted, you will have to act fast to save them.
The Bottom Line
Elder abuse is unlawful and warrants legal action, either criminal or probate. Now that you have learned about the signs of elder financial abuse, you can protect your seniors from exploitation and ensure they lead safe, secure lives. Be sure to act immediately. The sooner the abuse is reported, the faster it can be addressed.
Has your loved one fallen victim to financial abuse? Pursuing legal action with an elder financial abuse attorney can help right the wrongs. The elder law attorney at Jeremy Atwood will be happy to analyze your case and suggest possible resources. We never hesitate to go the distance for our clients and help them seek justice. For more information, give us a call today!