How to Protect the Elderly from Financial Abuse and Exploitation

Our aging population consists of some of the most vulnerable Americans. As we get older, our minds may deteriorate, making it easier for unscrupulous people to take advantage of us—and our finances. How do you report elder financial abuse? Are there reporting requirements? How can you protect your loved ones? Read on to find out.

A growing problem

It’s estimated that seniors (ages 50 and up) have lost over $2.9 billion each year due to financial abuse. In short, financial abuse occurs when someone manipulates or otherwise takes advantage of an elderly person’s finances, whether that’s a nursing home employee or the person’s own beloved child. Anyone can be a victim of financial abuse, no matter how sharp, smart and educated they are. They also don’t need to be “rich” to be a victim of financial abuse.

Potential warning signs of financial abuse and exploitation are numerous. The victim may suddenly change their spending habits, like incurring high credit card bills when they were once quite circumspect about their spending. Losing assets due to nonpayment or having utilities shut off are also major warning signs. Disappearing cash and assets, sudden transfers of property and checks made out to “cash” can also indicate a big problem.

If you notice these signs, it’s on you to step up and report the elder financial abuse. Reporting requirements may vary by municipality or state, so reach out to local authorities to find out what you need to do.

Protect your elders

To protect your elderly relatives from financial abuse, make sure you keep in touch with them, as well as their support network. This could include professional caretakers, other relatives, friends and other social contacts. Periodically check in and ask whether they’ve noticed any concerning changes, including new “friends” who may be in a position to take advantage of your loved one.

Of course, the best way to protect your elderly relatives from elder financial abuse is to have a plan in place, before their faculties decline. Talking to your parents and other elderly loved ones might be difficult, but it could save their assets. Ask them to set up a financial power of attorney with someone they trust (whether you, a professional or someone else). Consider setting up automatic bill pay and review their financial records each month. Talk to their financial advisors or attorneys to discuss creating an estate plan that will provide enough for them to live on, while protecting the rest of their assets from misuse.

If you notice anything “off,” be sure to report it to your local authorities as soon as you find out. The quicker you act, the more likely you’ll be able to save your loved one from elder financial abuse.

For help sorting through elder financial abuse reporting requirements, or to get a professional’s eye on their financial documents, call Medina & Company Consulting, Inc. Our accountants can help you root out abusive or questionable behavior when you reach out today to schedule a consultation.