Financial Resource Center


Safeguarding Against Elder Financial Abuse

by Laura Varela / December 23rd, 2020

COVID-19 has impacted us in more ways than one. The isolation required to contain the spread of the virus has allowed certain unscrupulous individuals to take advantage of those in crisis. The elderly have been hit hardest, both by the virus and by abusers. 

Before the pandemic, approximately 1 in 10 people over the age of 60 were victims of physical, verbal, sexual, or financial exploitation. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, elder abuse reports have risen

Adults age 55 and older control 70% of the nation's wealth, according to the Federal Reserve, making them attractive targets, particularly if they are suffering reduced physical or mental capacities. Elders who are dependent on others, have predictable patterns, don’t realize the value of their assets or are confused about financial matters and technology are key targets. Perpetrators can be family members, predatory individuals and unscrupulous professionals (or persons posing as such). 

Help stop elder financial exploitation by looking for warning signs:

  • Unpaid bills, eviction notices or notices to discontinue utilities;
  • Withdrawals or transfers from financial accounts that the person can't explain;
  • New "best friends" or authorized signers on accounts;
  • Legal documents that the older person did not understand at the time he or she signed them;
  • Missing belongings or property;
  • Lack of documentation about financial arrangements; and
  • Questionable signatures on checks or other legal documents.

Prevention is key in eliminating financial abuse of elders. Here are tips to help your loved ones:

  • Have a family discussion. Have an attorney draft a personal care agreement that is clear about how a family caregiver will be compensated;
  • Run a national background check on caregivers before hiring;
  • Accompany elders to meetings with financial advisers to be aware of the elder’s financial situation and any changes made to their retirement funds;
  • Protect valuables. List and photograph them. Store the lists and photographs separately from the items;
  • If the elder is presented with a document they don’t understand, make sure they consult a financial advisor or attorney before signing it;
  • Secure mail. Incoming and outgoing mail in an unsecured mailbox is a tempting target; and
  • Check up on loved ones often, physically or by phone. It would also be helpful to meet with some of their friends and neighbors and get their phone numbers. They can be contacts if you can’t reach your loved one by phone.
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