Aging is a part of life, but it can be hard to watch your loved ones get older. One way you can walk alongside them is by watching for signs of elderly financial abuse. Elderly financial abuse is a crime that deprives older adults of their resources and independence by taking advantage of their finances through fraud, trickery, gaining power of attorney, or unauthorized use of their assets. According to AARP, roughly $28.3 billion a year is stolen from U.S. adults over the age of 60. You can help protect those you love from falling victim by recognizing the signs and reporting suspicions.
If you are close with your aged loved one, chances are you are aware of their financial patterns. Changes in their financial behavior can be a sign that they are falling victim to financial abuse. Some of these changes could be unusual activity such as large and unexpected withdrawals, new “friends” that accompany them to the bank, uncharacteristic attempts to wire large sums of money, bank statements no longer delivered to their home address, altered wills and trusts, and more.
If your aged family member is uncharacteristically making large withdrawals or attempting to wire large amounts of money, it could be a sign that they are falling for the grandparent scam. In this instance, scammers prey on the most vulnerable part of a grandparent—their heart. The scammer pretends to be the grandchild, asking, “Hi, Grandma, do you know who this is?” When the grandparent responds with their guess of which grandchild it is, the scammer immediately has their trust and the name they will be using. The fake grandchild can then ask for money to be sent to them, making up whatever story will tug at the heartstrings. They may request money in the form of gift cards or wire transfers.
If your loved one starts talking about their friend they made who takes them to the bank or reveals they are having this friend handle their bank statements and bills, they may be falling into a financial scam crafted by someone they are growing close to. Of the $28.3 billion that is stolen each year from this demographic, 72% of it is committed by someone they know including friends, family members, and caregivers. While you do not need to monitor every friend your loved one has, you should be wary when that friend or caregiver starts getting involved in their finances.
Noticing the signs is the first step in protecting your aging loved ones. If you have become suspicious about their financial behavior and suspect there is something going on behind the scenes, sit down and talk to your older family member. Try to figure out more of the details, such as what they are spending their large sums of money on or why they are having a friend manage their financial statements.
Because falling victim to financial abuse can make the victim feel ashamed, they may not want to admit to what they have done or even understand the full depth of the scam. If you are convinced that what is occurring is elderly financial exploitation, your next step could be talking to their bank to report the abuse. Bankers can be key players in helping to stop and prevent further financial fraud. If you need further support, you can contact Adult Protective Services in your town or state.
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