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Financial abuse is on the rise for older Adults. Consider these alarming statistics:

  • 70% of the nation's wealth now belongs to those 60 or over
  • Seniors lose more than $2.9 billion annually to financial exploitation1
  • According to one survey: only 1 in 44 cases are reported

Studies have shown that elder financial abuse decimates income, compromises health care and living options, fractures families, and results in a loss of dignity.

Exploitation of Older Adults

Perpetrators of financial abuse and exploitation range from family, friends and neighbors to caregivers, trusted professionals, scam artists and common criminals. Despite increased awareness in recent years, this devastating crime, more often than not, goes unreported. A superior court judge in California calls elder financial abuse the "ultimate betrayal."

The Many Forms of Financial Abuse

Perpetrators often target vulnerable seniors, like those who live in isolation, have limited mobility or suffer from cognitive issues. Financial abuse of seniors can take many forms, including:

  • Unauthorized credit/debit card charges
  • Telemarketing fraud
  • Identity theft
  • Fraudulent bank withdrawals
  • Home improvement scams
  • Predatory lending
  • Inappropriate investments
  • Estate planning improprieties

Beware of the Warning Signs

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Consumer Reports, here are ten common signs of financial exploitation:

  1. Inconsistent banking activity
  2. Money or property is missing
  3. Unexplained withdrawals from bank accounts, frequent ATM use or large wire transfers
  4. Unpaid bills
  5. Bank statements or bills stop arriving in the mail
  6. Changes in spending patterns, such as purchases of items the senior doesn't need
  7. Excessively large reimbursements or "gifts" to caregivers or friends
  8. Changes to beneficiaries on a will, a life insurance policy or retirement funds at a time when the senior's capacity is questionable
  9. Excessive interest in the senior's finances by a caregiver, friend, or relative
  10. A caregiver, friend or relative suddenly begins handling the money without legal support or documentation of the arrangement

EverSafe: Proactive Defense

EverSafe is the first service that applies technology to combat financial exploitation of older adults. It helps members and relatives or trusted advocates identify and respond to suspicious activity. EverSafe monitors financial records, including bank and investment accounts. credit cards and credit services, and quickly alerts members if there appear to be unauthorized transactions or identity theft.

Here's how:

  • EverSafe scans financial and credit records daily.
  • When suspicious activity is identified, members and their designated agents and advocates are immediately alerted.
  • The status of the suspicious activity is tracked through resolution.
  • Consolidated reporting of all accounts saves time and gives you a complete overview of the entire financial landscape.

Types of Elder Financial Abuse

Elder financial abuse can take many forms. Essentially, it's the unauthorized taking or use of a senior's funds, assets, personal identity or property.

Elder financial abuse can take many forms. Essentially, it's the unauthorized taking or use of a senior's funds, assets, personal identity or property.

  • Stealing cash or property from an older person or their residence
  • Wrongfully misusing a senior's funds that have been entrusted into the care of another person
  • Withdrawals from a senior's bank or investment account — without consent or when the senior is unable to consent because of impairment
  • Using a senior's credit or debit card, without permission
  • Persuading an older adult to sign a power of attorney (POA) at a time when they lack understanding because of dementia, or some other impairment
  • Forging a senior's signature on a check, deed, power of attorney, will, codicil, or other commercial instrument or contract
  • False or misleading representations that induce the senior to transfer funds or obtain an unnecessary reverse mortgage with inflated fees
  • Sale of inappropriate products or services to an older adult (e.g. auto club membership when the senior no longer drives)
  • Inducing a senior to sign a will, codicil or other testamentary instrument
  • Adding names to a senior's bank account, at a time when he/she is unable to understand the change to the account
  • Transactions involving coercion, manipulation or trickery of a vulnerable senior, known as "undue influence"
  • Scams and "confidence" games involving "home improvement," phony charities, the lottery or sweepstakes, sweetheart "gifts," or younger relatives who are in trouble overseas
  • Internet scams involving "phishing" emails that trick a senior into entering personal and or financial account information
  • Identity theft offenses

Who are the Exploiters?

Abusers may be:

  • Relatives of the older victim (e.g. spouses, partners, children and grandchildren); many of the younger abusers have substance abuse issues
  • Caregivers (e.g. home aides, nursing assistants, personal care attendants)
  • Someone in a position of trust with respect to the senior (known as a "fiduciary") especially if they have access to the senior's assets, including:
    • Agents pursuant to a power of attorney (POA)
    • Accountants
    • Financial advisors
    • Bankers
    • Guardians or conservators
    • Attorneys
  • Predatory lenders who make unnecessary loans generating excessive fees and commissions to older, vulnerable consumers, with the expectation that they will default
  • Strangers who "con" seniors via scams and confidence games, both within and outside the US

Who is at Risk?

Any senior can be victimized. Seniors who may be especially vulnerable are:

  • Lonely
  • Isolated
  • Impaired - either physically or mentally
  • Suffering from depression
  • Recently widowed
  • Dependent on a caregiver, especially if the helper has financial difficulties and/or addiction issues

How to Defend Yourself

Be alert and stay informed. It takes surprisingly little time for an exploiter to wipe out a lifetime of savings

  • Knowledge is the most effective weapon against elder financial abuse
  • Staying alert and attuned to banking and credit card activity is the first line of defense
  • Seniors and their advocates should also familiarize themselves with common cons and scams to avoid falling prey to abuse
  • Plan for that day in the future when you or your loved one may become ill or incapacitated. If all goes well, aging won't mean a loss of independence
  • Appointing a trusted family member, friend or professional as an agent pursuant to a Power of Attorney, and using EverSafe, will help ensure financial protection and peace of mind during the golden years