Elder financial abuse is a growing crime, with one in four seniors in the United States becoming a victim. In most cases, elderly victims are taken advantage of by someone them know – a family member, caregiver, neighbor, or financial advisor or broker.
A June 2011 study from MetLife Mature Market Institute shows that elderly financial abuse costs its victims nearly $3 billion a year. Women are twice as likely as men to become victims of elder financial abuse, according to the MetLife study, with most individuals between the ages of 80 and 89, living alone, and requiring some level of help with either health care or home maintenance.
Some of the warning signs of potential elder financial fraud and abuse include:
- Unexplained bank withdrawals.
- Unauthorized use of a credit or ATM card.
- Stolen or misplaced credit cards or a checkbook.
- Unexplained withdrawals from brokerage accounts.
- Checks written as “cash,” “loan” or “gift.”
- Abrupt changes in a will or other documents.
- Unexplained transfer of assets to a family member or someone outside the family.
- Disappearance of valuables.
- Sudden appearance of a previously uninvolved relative claiming a right to an elder’s affairs or possessions.
- New signers on accounts.
The bottom line: If you, a loved one or an elderly neighbor or friend has become a victim of financial abuse, it’s important to contact the authorities. Financial abusers count on silence of their victims to continue their crime.