Elder Financial Abuse is Something You Can Spot – and Stop.

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elderly couple smiling

Financial exploitation is a fast-growing form of abuse that affects senior citizens and adults with disabilities. By definition, financial exploitation or abuse occurs when someone misuses or takes the assets of a vulnerable adult for his/her own personal benefit – usually without the knowledge or consent of the victim. Sadly, most or all of the victim’s financial resources can be stolen or taken in some way.

Typically, this type of abuse involves trusted persons in the lives of these vulnerable adults – caretakers, family members, neighbors, friends, pastors, doctors or nurses, and even attorneys. Unfortunately, many victims don’t report this type of abuse because they’re embarrassed, ashamed or don’t understand what’s happening to them.

But, you can help in the fight against elder financial abuse by being more in tune with what’s going on with your elders – whether a parent, relative, friend or neighbor.

What does elder financial abuse look like?

Elder financial abuse takes many forms. Here are some of the most common ways this type of abuse is committed:

  • An elderly person is forced or coerced to sign a deed, will or power of attorney;
  • someone forges an elderly person’s signature as a way to take money or property;
  • someone steals money or property from an elderly person;
  • telemarketers call the elderly and use deception, scare tactics or exaggerated claims to take their money or use their credit card in some way;
  • businesses overcharge an elderly person for services, or promise a product or service, but never deliver it;
  • investment scam artists sell unnecessary or fraudulent products or services using “free lunch seminars” or other tactics;
  • fraudsters either call or email the elderly stating they’ve won the lottery or some other sweepstakes. They ask for personal financial information to secure the winnings – unfortunately, it’s all a scam;
  • criminals use an elderly person’s Social Security number or other form of identification to commit identity theft.

What are some signs of elder financial abuse?

Depending on your relationship, you’ll be able to determine whether or not an elderly person is a victim of elder financial abuse if you see a pattern with any of the following indicators:

  • Unpaid bills, including utility bills, causing a disruption in service;
  • withdrawals from a savings or checking account that can’t be explained;
  • account statements are no longer delivered to the person’s home – checking, savings, credit cards or loans;
  • large, unexplained or frequent withdrawals or transfers made between accounts;
  • frequent large ATM withdrawals;
  • new “best friends” who seem concerned with the person’s assets;
  • not understanding a legal document he or she has signed, such as a power of attorney;
  • when a caregiver expresses “a little too much” interest in the amount of money being spent on the person;
  • the person’s property or other belongings are missing;
  • suspicious signatures on important documents regarding the elderly person’s care or financial needs.

How can you help?

If you suspect elder financial abuse, you should contact Adult Protective Services in your community or your state department of social services. You can find contact information at www.eldercare.gov or by calling 800- 677-1116.

If the crime committed results in identity theft, you should contact your local police and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). If the loss involves funds held at BancorpSouth, report it to us immediately by calling 888-797-7711.