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Elderly Financial Abuse: How to Protect Your Loved Ones

Financial abuse can affect individuals of all ages, but it is especially troubling and devastating for senior citizens. Unfortunately, financial exploitation of aging individuals is a growing problem. Learn how to protect yourself and those you love by recognizing the warning signs of elderly financial abuse.

What is Elderly Financial Abuse?

According to the Welfare and Institutions Code 15610.3, elderly financial abuse takes place in any situation in which a person who stands in a position of trust to an elder or dependent adult takes their money for any wrongful use or with the intent to defraud. In the past year, 1 in 9 seniors reported being harmed, neglected or exploited and one in 20 seniors reported some form of financial mistreatment. Moreover, the perpetrators of these crimes are likely to be individuals the person knows, such as family or friends.

Who Might Be Vulnerable? 

Those individuals who may be vulnerable to elderly abuse include:

  • Senior citizens who have a known “nest egg” or retirement account
  • Elderly individuals with cognitive or physical impairments (those suffering from dementia, for example, or who may have poor hearing/eyesight)
  • Those who may have lost a loved one or partner and are dealing with grief, and therefore, not focusing clearly.

Elderly Financial Scams to Look Out for

While it is more likely that elderly financial abuse is carried out by someone the individual knows, the elderly can also fall victim to financial scams by strangers, including false calls made by someone pretending to be from the IRS or from the government concerning jury duty who asks for money. (It is important to note here that government agencies such as the IRS will not call you; rather, they will communicate through the mail unless you have contacted them first by phone.)

In addition, the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA) lists these common scams carried out by strangers:

  • Lottery and/or sweepstakes scams: Caller tells individual they have won a sweepstakes, but they need to send money to cover taxes
  • Home repair and/or utility company scams
  • Telemarketing scams
  • Charity scams: caller attempts to get funds transferred in the name of a charity. This happens frequently after a local or natural disaster.
  • Grandparent scam: caller pretends to be a member of the individual’s family to get money transferred to them.

What Are The Warning Signs of Elderly Financial Abuse?

Although it may be a difficult reality to confront, there are usually tell-tale signs that elderly financial abuse is occurring, but the biggest is that the individual’s established financial patterns have been disrupted. Some common “red flags” include:

  • Unexplained withdrawals from the victim’s bank accounts
  • Unpaid bills
  • Uncharacteristic financial behavior (wiring large sums of money, or altered wills and/or trusts, for example).

How Can I Protect My Loved Ones from Elderly Financial Abuse?

At Chatterton & Associates, we aim to enrich the lives of our clients and team members through collaboration within our community. Human Options is a local, non-profit organization that provide services for men, women, children and seniors who identify as survivors of domestic violence, family violence or who are currently in an abusive relationship. This is a great resource in our community, and we were grateful for Human Options for taking their time out to educate and empower our team members to better serve our clients in need.

If you suspect your elderly loved ones may be victims of financial abuse, you should bring it to the attention of Adult Protective Services and local law enforcement, if necessary. You should also contact the individual’s bank to prevent instances of recurring fraud. Please check our community resources to download a list of trusted contacts and Hotlines provided by Human Options.

Chatterton & Associates recommends having a trusted contact to rely on when it comes to financial and estate planning, which can also help prevent elderly financial abuse. If you have any questions about how to set up a trusted contact or whom to choose, contact us today.


The Team at Chatterton & Associates

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