Four Warning Signs of Financial Elder Abuse

The elder law attorneys at Bodie Law in Maryland discuss indications of elder abuse and how to handle them.

The term “elder abuse” often brings to mind physical abuse at the hands of a caregiver, but abuse also may come in the form of someone attempting to illicitly control someone’s finances.  It is important to be aware of the warning signs of financial elder abuse before it is too late. Knowing these simple red flags could mean the difference between abuse and avoidance.

  1. Changes in the checking account. You should not wait until there is money missing from the elder’s bank account. Be proactive and keep an eye out for warning signs that may indicate a problem. Perhaps there is a stack of unpaid bills piling up, or maybe the elder has gone without necessary items or provisions. Look for suspicious activity such as numerous checks written out to “cash.” Be on the lookout also for transactions that involve unfamiliar entities or that don’t seem to fit the account holder’s lifestyle or needs.
  2. A peer or family member has a private “emergency.” According to the National Council on Aging, callers will often play on a victim’s familial emotions by pretending to be a friend or family member in distress. It is important to warn consumers never to send money for an emergency without confirming with other family members and others that the cause and recipient are legitimate.
  3. Unsolicited telephone offers are made to the elder. Many telemarketing schemers dangle promises of cheap health products, vacation deals and other offers to unsuspecting seniors. The deals don’t exist and the caller’s true purpose is to obtain the victim’s credit card information. In some cases, the schemer will send a “prize check” to the victim after collecting bank account information for payment of a processing fee. By the time the prize check bounces, the thief has been on a spending spree with the victim’s money and it’s too late. Warn elders of these schemes, and remind them to never give credit card or bank account information over the phone unless they have initiated the transaction themselves.
  4. Someone is isolating the elder. Financial abuse is executed by those who have become close to their victims and gained their trust. The threat can be anyone from a relative, caregiver, friend or someone else closely involved in the victim’s life. Look for signs of a person gaining access to the elder’s bills and checking account information. In some extreme cases, financial abusers manage to move in with their victims or even marry them, alienating them from caring family members and friends.

Being aware of these red flags may help you to avoid a costly and heartbreaking elder abuse situation. Knowing the signs of abuse is vital for the care of the elder. For more information on elder abuse and warning signals, contact an elder law attorney from Bodie Law today.