How to Protect Your Loved Ones from Financial Elder Abuse

Author: Denise Owens, SVP, Fraud Manager 07/29/2022

As baby boomers begin to retire, fraudsters are hard at work using new techniques to take advantage of aging adults by committing financial elder abuse. According to the American Bankers Association, people over 50 years old make up over 70 percent of our nation’s wealth. But financial elder abuse cost victims roughly $2.9 billion just last year alone. To protect your loved ones from financial elder abuse, consider these tips.

What is Financial Elder Abuse?

Before you can prevent financial elder abuse, it’s important to know exactly what it is. Financial elder abuse involves someone taking advantage to deprive an elder of their resources, using undue influence, or scamming an elder out of property, credit, or funds to use it for their own benefit. The age range varies depending on your state. In Texas, anyone above 65 years old is considered an elder for financial exploitation. It is also important to know who conducts financial exploitation. It could be a caregiver, a family member, or an unknown scammer.

Stay Alert for Red Flags 

Family members or loved ones can do their part by watching for strange behavior or red flags from their elder. These could all be signs of financial elder abuse.

  • The elder becomes secretive about transactions.
  • There’s a new friend or family member appearing to be very involved in financial decision making with the elder. 
  • When you ask questions related to transactions, the elder does not want to share or tells you it is confidential.
  • You see that the elder appears to be struggling financially where, in the past, they had the funds they needed to meet their obligations.
  • There is a new signer on the elder’s bank account that the family does not know.
  • A victim may withdrawal and stops taking care of themself when they know they’re being taken advantage of or is sustaining physical/mental abuse.
  • Look for any signs of physical/mental abuse and ask questions in a safe location so the elder can speak freely.

Choose a Trusted Power of Attorney or Signer on the Account

It’s risky for an elder to be the sole signer on an account. That’s why it’s important to have a trusted person to assist them, whether it’s a signer on an account or a power of attorney. Having a child or sibling as a signer on the account can be very beneficial from the bank’s standpoint. It makes it possible for the bank to contact someone if there is any suspicious behavior or activity occurring on an elder’s account. If a family member is concerned for the safety of their elder or suspects financial exploitation, they can contact Adult Protective Services.

It is important to note, just because someone is over 65 years old and makes a poor financial decision, it doesn’t always mean it’s elder abuse. Family members often want to automatically pronounce it elder abuse if the elder is giving money to other family members or takes a financial loss due to a bad financial decision. It has to be undue influence to gain control of the elder’s money or property with the intent to deprive the elder of their resources. But if an elder happens to fall for an email scam that a 20-year-old, 40-year-old, or 50-year-old could also fall for, they’re not being targeted because of their age, so it is not elder financial abuse. They are a scam victim and the activity should be reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and their bank.

Get to Know Caregivers

If you’re hiring a caregiver through a company, verify that the company conducts background searches. If you’re hiring individually, it’s very important that the caretaker has references and you can verify the information provided. You want to make sure the person you’re hiring doesn’t have a criminal history in elder exploitation.

If there is ever a time when you can’t communicate with your elder directly, that’s a big red flag. If you can’t get them on the phone, and the caregiver is the only one emailing or calling, that’s a major concern. Even if you don’t live in the same town or state, it’s important to have someone trustworthy who can physically check on them.

Keeping Your Money Safe

Keeping your money safe is as important to us as it is to you. PlainsCapital Bank’s Fraud Department provides educational resources for businesses and individuals to help detect and prevent fraud. For more information about our fraud prevention efforts and financial elder abuse, visit our fraud resources page.

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