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Financial Abuse: Could You Spot It?

By Eileen Beal, MA

(Page 2 of 4)

Spotting the signs

Financial abuse of older adults has become so rampant that when the US Government created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, it designated a special Office of Older Americans  ( within the Bureau to deal with it.  The office’s goals: track down and expose scams; ensure laws currently on the books are enforced; and educate seniors and those who care about them, to identify, avoid and report financial scams.

The office is new, however, and just getting traction in Washington, so if you want to protect a loved one or friend from financial abuse, you need to be able to read the signs of abuse.  According to a recent MetLife Report, The Essentials: Preventing Elder Abuse, the following are flags that mean it could occur, or is occurring:

  • lack of care when the person has sufficient funds available

  • changes in banking or spending habits

  • excessive use of the ATM or credit cards, especially for non-care-related items

  • abrupt changes in a will, power of attorney, or financial documents

  • unpaid bills and utilities

  • lack of knowledge of financial status

  • new “best friends”

  • unexplained disappearance of valuables or money – or both

  • unexplained transfer of money or assets to a family member or someone outside of the family – such as a new “best friend”

  • discovery of the person’s signature forged on checks, financial transaction documents, or documents or titles related to his or her possessions

  • unusual degree of fear of or submissiveness to a caregiver

  • bruises, trips to the ER, broken bones – where there is financial abuse there is often physical abuse

  • isolation – by aide or new “best friends” – from family, friends, community, or other stable relationships

  • signs of intimidation and/or anxiety when questioned about new “best friend”

  • missed appointments or uncharacteristic nonpayment of bills

  • anxiety about personal finances


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