Older adults are frequently targeted for financial abuse. They typically have more funds than their younger counterparts do. They tend to be generous and naïve, not understanding all the ways they can be scammed. Some have memory and thinking problems. And even if they do realize they’ve been “taken,” they may be too ashamed or scared to admit it.
Indeed, studies suggest financial abuse is on the rise. It is likely now the dominant form of elder abuse.
Perhaps the saddest of all facts is that 50% to 65% of the time, the abuser is a member of the family or someone known to the victim. Maybe an adult child at loose ends or grandchild with a drug problem. Even spouses are perpetrators.
Common signs of trouble
- A “new best friend.” Fraudsters prey upon loneliness to become deeply involved in an elder’s life. They can be strangers or relatives who literally or figuratively move in to “help.”
- Isolation. Can you still connect with your loved one easily and privately? Abusers may hide the phone, hide glasses and hearing aids, or listen in on every contact. Another strategy is to emotionally manipulate the older adult into mistrusting everyone but the abuser.
- Unusual financial activity. Watch for sharp reductions in assets, bounced checks, unpaid bills, or collection notices. A new check signer or additional credit card may spell trouble. Also, a recent change in the will or trust. A report of forged checks is definitely a red alert.
- Frightened or secretive behavior. Some abusers threaten repercussions for any disclosure or complaint. Shame may cause your relative to retreat and comply.
If you suspect abuse: Contact the Elder Abuse Hotline in the state where your loved one lives or AARP’s ElderWatch program (1-800-222-4444). Or consult with an elderlaw attorney.