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Protecting Your Loved One

How to Spot, Report and Prevent Elder Financial Abuse

The National Council on Aging estimates that elder financial abuse robs our most vulnerable population of $2.6 billion to $36.5 billion every year. Part of the reason why this is such a large range is because many cases of financial abuse go unreported. Because an elderly loved one may not be able to spot financial abuse, it’s important that you're vigilant in protecting your loved one.

Elder financial abuse can rob people of their funds at a time when they need them most. Most victims of financial abuse don't recover the funds stolen from them. This can mean that a person’s entire life savings are taken with no time to rebuild it. Federal regulators also cite a number of other negative consequences of financial abuse, including:

  • Emotional pain;
  • Financial impoverishment;
  • The need to establish a guardianship;
  • Health concerns; and
  • Foreclosure or eviction.

Elder financial abuse can be committed in a variety of ways. It can be committed by professionals as part of an investment scam or securities fraud. In many situations, a relative is the abuser. Elder financial abuse is also often committed under the guise of a legal designation, such as using a power of attorney to seemingly legally transfer property or mismanaging an elderly person’s property in violation of a fiduciary duty owed by a guardian.

To combat elder financial abuse, the first step is to spot the signs of it. Many signs of financial abuse can be divided into transactional signs and personality signs.

Transactional signs include:

  • Seeing a new person listed on a bank account or named in an important legal document like a will or power of attorney;
  • Withdrawals of large amounts of money being made;
  • Not meeting financial obligations; and
  • Checks being made out to cash.

Personality signs include:

  • The elderly person seeming to be afraid of a caregiver;
  • The elderly person becoming isolated from friends and family;
  • Nervousness; and
  • Anxiety.

The specific way to report elder financial abuse will vary slightly from state to state. However, some common ways to report elder financial abuse include the following:

  • Reporting your suspicions to your local Adult Protective Services office;
  • Making a report with your state attorney general’s office;
  • Filing a police report in which you provide as many details as possible; and
  • Reporting the issue to your local long-term care ombudsman if the abuse is occurring in a nursing home or other long-term care facility.

By being active in your loved one’s life and maintaining a watchful eye on the situation, you can help prevent the devastating effects of financial abuse.

For more information on preventing financial abuse of a loved one, access the full article here.

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