Elder financial abuse often goes unreported. Just 1 in 44 cases of elder financial abuse are ever reported, according to the National Adult Protective Services Association. However, it’s one of the most rampant forms of abuse among older adults. The abuse is particularly common among elderly with cognitive impairments such as dementia or Alzheimer’s.
The sad truth is most abusers are family, close friends, or acquaintances who take advantage of situations when a person experiences a cognitive decline or reduced capacity. Financial elder abuse can take many forms from identity theft to telemarketing scams. It’s important to learn how to recognize the warning signs early to prevent the abuse from happening to your loved ones.
People Most at Risk for Experiencing Elder Financial Abuse
Elderly individuals who need help with daily living activities, live in social isolation, or have declining health or mental capabilities are most vulnerable to the abuse. A 2011 study of Financial Elder Abuse by MetLife showed women are more likely to be victims of elder abuse than men. Most victims fall between the ages of 80 and 89. However, men and women of any economic status, race, and health can all be at risk of elder financial abuse.
Warning Signs of Elder Financial Abuse
According to the National Center on Elderly Abuse, financial or material exploitation is defined as the illegal or improper use of an elder’s funds, property, or assets. If you have an elderly family member or friend, watch for these commons signs of financial abuse:
- Sudden changes to their will or other financial documents
- Allowing a new friend or acquaintance to make decisions for them
- Unexpected changes in banking practices or bank account balances
- Funds or valuable possessions mysteriously disappearing
- Unexplained or unauthorized withdrawals from financial accounts
- Unanticipated transferring of assets to a friend or family member
Emotional effects of elder financial abuse can include:
- Withdrawing from normal activities or relationships
“The main reason financial elder abuse goes unreported is because people are afraid to say something unless they know for sure the abuse is taking place.”
How to Prevent Elder Financial Abuse
Preventing elder financial abuse can be more effective than simply mastering the common signs. Before the warning signs appear, develop a strong support network around your elderly friend or family member to keep an eye on their welfare and finances. Keep in close contact with the individual to gain better insights into their mental state and financial affairs.
If you spot any of the warning signs or suspect an elderly individual is being exploited, address the issue immediately. This may mean contacting the authorities or confronting the abuser directly to prevent further abuse. If you think your family member has been a victim of fraud or other abuse, ask them about it directly. The main reason financial elder abuse goes unreported is because people are afraid to say something unless they know for sure the abuse is taking place.
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