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Recognizing financial abuse of elders: What to look for

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Not all elder abuse is physical. Seniors face an increased risk of financial abuse. As they age, their mental state may decline, leaving them susceptible to exploitation. This occurs when someone takes advantage of a senior citizen who may be physically or mentally incapacitated.

If you are a baby boomer with aging parents, this concern may weigh heavily on your mind. You want to protect your parents from falling victim to investment scams or other forms of fraud. Fortunately, there are several warning signs of financial elder abuse that you can watch for. By educating yourself on these signs and remaining vigilant, you can help protect your loved ones from the pitfalls of exploitation.
  • Look for unusual activity

If you have access to your relative’s bank accounts or credit card statements, monitor them carefully for suspicious activity. This may include new cards, unusual charges or unexplained withdrawals. Ask your loved one about it; if they do not remember making these transactions, someone could be stealing from them.

  • Who has access to their accounts?

Try to find out who is authorized on their bank or investment accounts. You should also try to discover who, if anyone, has access to their sensitive financial information like passwords, financial documents and their Social Security number. While it is possible that someone without access can exploit your loved one financially, it is more likely to occur from someone who does have access.

  • Family members sometimes commit abuse

Seniors are in a vulnerable position. Many rely on family members for their daily care. However, you should be aware that 90 percent of elder abuse is perpetrated by a family member. You should have an idea of which family members are around your elderly relative, and when. You should also keep track of who might have access to your loved one’s sensitive financial information.

If you can’t be proactive, seek justice

If your loved one has already been abused financially, you must do everything in your power to recover their money and hold the perpetrator accountable. There are attorneys who specialize in elder law and financial law who devote their practices to helping the victims of financial exploitation. Working closely with a legal advocate and law enforcement, you can seek justice for your relative.