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12 Tips for Spotting Signs of Elder Financial Abuse

Elder financial abuse, also known as elder financial exploitation, is a serious and growing concern as the population ages. According to a 2023 AARP report, Americans over the age of 60 lose an estimated $28.3 billion annually. More than 70% of these losses are caused by someone the victim knows, like caregivers, neighbors, family, and friends.

What Is Elder Financial Abuse?

Elder financial abuse involves using an older adult’s money, property, or resources for personal gain in illegal or improper ways. This abuse can take many forms, including stealing money, forging financial documents, pressuring older adults to give away assets, exploiting access to financial accounts, targeting seniors through online or telephone scams, and committing identity theft.

Top 12 Warning Signs of Elder Financial Abuse

If you suspect a loved one has been the target of financial abuse, watch for changes in their financial habits and unexplained activities involving their assets. Other warning signs include:

  1. Large withdrawals from accounts
  2. New joint accounts or credit card accounts
  3. Increasing credit card balances
  4. Unpaid bills, eviction/foreclosure notices, or insufficient funds notifications
  5. Checks sent to unknown persons
  6. Missing property or belongings
  7. New bank transfers or recurring transactions
  8. Forged signatures on financial or legal documents
  9. Unexpected changes to a will or power of attorney
  10. Financial documents sent to the wrong address
  11. New “friends” who isolate the older adult from family
  12. Caregivers or family members conducting financial transactions without proper authorization

Cognitive decline and mobility issues can increase the risk of financial abuse for seniors. Dishonest individuals may exploit older adults with cognitive issues, such as dementia, who don’t fully understand the financial consequences of their actions. Those with mobility problems may be dependent on others for important errands, such as banking, and are thus vulnerable as well. If you know your loved one has limited physical and/or cognitive ability, it is important to pay close attention to who can access their sensitive information and handle financial matters on their behalf.

8 Strategies to Prevent Elder Financial Abuse

Being vigilant and proactive can help prevent financial abuse. Here are some steps to take to help prevent your loved one from becoming a victim:

  1. Advise your loved one not to give money or sensitive information to unknown callers and websites. Ask them to confirm with you if they are concerned about the legitimacy of a person or group reaching out to them.
  2. Make money management a family responsibility. Involve trusted family members in financial tasks and set up financial alerts to monitor accounts.
  3. Understand the current state of your loved one’s finances. This includes account balances, the types of accounts they have, and recurring transactions.
  4. Set up automatic payments for bills to avoid missed payments.
  5. Establish a power of attorney for important accounts.
  6. Cancel unused credit cards.
  7. Opt out of credit solicitations.
  8. Monitor credit reports and consider placing a credit freeze.

Reporting Elder Financial Abuse

If you have evidence that your loved one has been a victim of elder financial exploitation, there are steps you can take to report it.

  • Contact the financial institutions involved to inform them of the situation.
  • Reach out to your local division of adult protective services for investigation and assistance with potential criminal charges.
  • Report the abuse to local authorities using the non-emergency number. If your loved one is in immediate danger, call 911.
  • Contact the local district attorney’s office to request prosecution of the abuser.

Elder financial abuse is a serious issue that requires vigilance and proactive measures to prevent and address. By recognizing the warning signs, taking preventive actions, and reporting abuse when suspected, you can help protect your loved ones and hold abusers accountable.

Our team at EAG offers support to older adults who have experienced financial abuse. If you would like to learn more about care management, please visit or call us at 713-804-8528.


Source: IlluminAge AgeWise with information from AARP, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Washington State Department of Financial Institutions



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