Keep your eyes open for these warning signs of elder financial abuse

August 10th, 2017 Cindi Schrock

Unfortunately elder financial abuse is increasingly becoming a problem we all need to be aware of. Nearly 1 in 5 Americans over 65 say they have been a victim of financial exploitation, according to a poll released by the nonprofit Investor Protection Trust. What’s worse, these numbers are expected to get worse as the boomer generation ages.

Older adults’ reliance on others in a position of trust can make them particularly vulnerable to abuse. The increase of technology in the financial industry has also increased scams targeting the elderly. Most perpetrators use mail, phone or increasingly email to relentlessly contact their victims.

After a lifetime of working and saving, our elders shouldn’t have to fend off fraudsters trying to steal their wealth. According to the American Bankers Association, the key to spotting financial abuse is a change in a person’s established financial patterns. If you have an older person in your life you care about, keep an eye out for these “red flags.”

  • Reluctance to talk about the problem. Victims are often too embarrassed or dependent on the perpetrator.
  • New “friends” accompanying an older person to the bank or start conducting financial transaction on behalf of your loved one.
  • Lack of amenities (food, medical care, clothing, outings, etc.) the person could normally afford.
  • ATM withdrawals by someone who has never used a debit or ATM card.
  • Far-fetched explanations of why money is needed or was spent.
  • Sudden non-sufficient fund activity or unpaid bills.
  • Signs that the older person is being isolated or manipulated by someone else. Examples of this include fewer outings, abrupt change in habits or nervousness around the new “friend.”
  • Withdrawals from bank accounts or transfers between accounts your loved one cannot explain.
  • Questions about how to wire money, or uncharacteristic attempts to wire large sums of money.
  • Confusion, fear or lack of awareness on the part of your loved one when it comes to all matters financial.
  • Checks that are written as “gifts.”
  • A sudden desire to alter wills or trusts.

What to do if you suspect abuse

If you suspect financial abuse, it’s important you act quickly. The earlier you do something about it, the better.

  • Begin by talking to your elderly friends or loved ones. Patiently explain that you’ve noticed some warning signs and determine what specifically is happening with their financial situation. Don’t be confrontational or judgmental. Help them understand that you have their best interest at heart.
  • Report the elder financial abuse to their bank, and enlist their banker’s help to stop it and prevent its recurrence.
  • Finally, report all instances of elder financial abuse to your local police especially if fraud is involved.

If you have questions about how to help prevent financial abuse among the elderly, or suspect someone in your circle of friends or family is a victim, please contact your local MidWestOne banker.

Cindi Schrock

About the author

Cindi Schrock is Second Vice President, Managing Officer at MidWestOne Bank. She works with MidWestOne customers to help them manage their personal finances and identify effective money management solutions.

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