Elder Financial Abuse is a Growing Problem in America

People 60 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. 1 in 4 seniors will be a victim of a financial crime with it often going unreported. It's estimated that seniors make up 75% to 90% of all con game and fraud victims; suffering over $40 billion in losses each year.


What is Elder Financial Abuse or Exploitation?

It is fraudulent or otherwise illegal, unauthorized, or improper act or process of an individual that uses the resources of an older person for personal benefit, profit, or gain. Actions that result in depriving an older person of rightful access to, or use of benefits, resources, belongings, or assets.


Why are Elders at Risk?

  • Have a regular income and accumulated assets

  • Trusting and polite

  • Lonely and socially isolated

  • Unfamiliar with managing financial matters

  • Reluctant to report exploitation by a family member, caregiver, or someone they depend on

  • Dependent on support from a family member or caregiver to remain independent

  • Receiving care from a person with financial or other issues

  • Fear retaliation by the exploiter

  • Vulnerable due to grief from a loss

  • Not have planned for the potential loss of decision-making capacity

  • Cognitively impaired with diminished ability to make financial decisions or detect a fraud or scam

  • Dependent on a family member or another person who may pressure them for money

Types of Elder Financial Abuse:

  • Exploitation by an agent under a Power of Attorney or person in another fiduciary relationship

  • Investment fraud and scams

  • Theft, money, or property by family members, caregivers, or in-home helpers

  • Lottery and sweepstakes scams

  • Grandparent/Imposter scams

  • Tax and debt collection scams

  • Contractor fraud and home improvement scams

  • Romance and charity scams

  • Telephone, computer, and internet scams

  • Identity theft

  • Reverse mortgage fraud

  • Telemarketer, mail offer, or salesperson scam

Why don't Elders Report Exploitation?

  • Shame and embarrassment

  • Loyalty to family member or caregiver

  • Fear of retaliation or not being believed

  • Dependence on the abuser

  • Denial

  • Lack of awareness

Red Flags for Family Members:

Watch their banking activity for any erratic or unusual transactions, changes in their banking patters, sudden non-sufficient fund activity, uncharacteristic nonpayment for services, debit transactions that are inconsistent for them, uncharacteristic attempts to wire large sums of money, or closing of CDs or accounts without regard to penalties. You can also pay attention to their interactions like moving away from existing relationships, new friends or strangers, sudden change in financial management, change of their Power of Attorney, or lack of knowledge of financial matters. If they have a caregiver, pay close attention to their interactions with them as well. For example, if their caregiver is showing excessive interest, doesn't allow the elder to speak for themselves or not allowed to speak to the elder directly, are reluctant to leave the older adults side, they begin conducting financial transactions suddenly, or of there are no proper documentation to conduct business on their behalf.


Protecting our Loved Ones

According to the National Institute of Aging, there are some general legal documents to consider in order to protect you and outline your wishes for family and caregivers.

  • Will and Trusts lets you name the person you want your money and property to go to after you die.

  • Advance Directives let you make arrangements for your care if you become sick.

  • Living Will gives you a say in your health care if you become too sick to make your wishes known and you can state what kind of care you do or don't want.

  • Power of Attorneys

    • General Power of Attorney lets you give someone else the authority to act on your behalf, but this power will end if you are unable to make your own decisions.

    • Durable Power of Attorney allows you to name someone to act on your behalf for any legal task, but it stays in place if you become unable to make your own decisions.

Who can help?

For elder abuse or exploitation, contact Adult Protective Services. Find contact information at eldercare.acl.gov or call 1-800-677-1116.

If someone is in danger or a crime has been committed, call the police.

For concerns about their financial institution, contact them directly.

For concerns about credit products, contact the creditor.



Federal Websites - Valuable federal websites for a range of elder care issues

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau - Managing someone else's money guides