A Guide To Financial Abuse In Seniors

A Guide To Financial Abuse In Seniors

Elder financial abuse occurs more frequently than you might imagine. More people experience it than even statistics will indicate. According to Consumer Affairs, 3.5 million senior citizens are taken advantage of financially each year.

However, because family members, dependable friends, and caretakers frequently engage in it, it can be harder to spot than physical abuse and neglect.

This manual aims to educate older people and the people close to them about financial abuse, its warning indications, potential schemes, and steps they can take to safeguard their assets.

What Is Elder Financial Abuse?

Financial elder abuse entails taking advantage of them and unfairly profiting from their financial resources. Elders are occasionally financially abused by family members, coworkers, carers, and strangers who prey on their confidence. Unauthorized use of an older adult’s assets, obtaining power of attorney through deception, or participating in fraud are examples of tactics used in financial elder abuse.

Important Stats About Financial Abuse In Seniors

Here are some important numbers about elder financial abuse that you should know.

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 500,000 older Americans experience financial elder abuse each year.
  • Elder financial abuse and fraud are estimated to cost older Americans between $2.9 billion to $36.5 billion yearly, the National Council on Aging.
  • The average loss for seniors who are victims of fraud is $34,200.
  • Over the 60s are frequently more susceptible to con artists, while victims over 80 report much greater monetary losses.
  • The annual Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book published by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) indicates that older persons are more likely than younger people to experience financial losses as a result of fraud, with median losses of $600 for adults aged 70 to 79 and $1,600 for those over 80.
  • If they haven’t lost any money, seniors are 90% more likely to report fraud efforts, according to the FTC.
  • Elder financial abuse is reported only to the authorities in 1 out of 44 incidents.
  • California had the biggest number of victims, 12,951, based on the total number of complaints, and the highest losses, $427,263,948, according to the FBI’s 2021 Elder Fraud Report.
  • According to the FBI, tech support fraud is the type of fraud that older victims report being a victim of the most.
  • The FBI research also noted that in 2021, losses to elderly victims of tech support scams amounted to about $238 million.

Top Financial Scams Targeting Seniors

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that older Americans are especially susceptible to the following frauds:

  • Online shopping scams
  • Tech support scams
  • Imposter scams
  • Romance scams
  • Sweepstakes scams
  • Other scams

The Federal Trade Commission also keeps records of how these scams are carried out:

Type Of ScamReported CaseReported Loss
Scam phone calls16,000$1,500
Online theft10,000 $395
Consumer-initiated contact6,000$300
Email scams4,000$500
Mail fraud1,000$1,800

This information suggests that phone calls are the scammers’ preferred technique. Following the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) estimates, 2.4 billion robocalls are placed monthly. Robocalls frequently employ fake area codes or the caller ID of a government organization to appear to be coming from the victim’s neighborhood. The victim is then typically informed via an automated message that they owe money or must act immediately regarding a situation.

How Elder Financial Abuse Happens

Older adults might suffer financial abuse in a variety of ways. Sometimes, an elder’s assets or money may be misused by a family member or acquaintance without their knowledge.

Elder financial exploitation can take a variety of shapes, including

  • Theft from a nursing home involving money or items
  • Unauthorized or prohibited use of an elder’s assets
  • Power of attorney abuse
  • Falsifying an older adult’s signature on financial paperwork

Abuse of older adults financially can take many different forms. Unfortunately, much elder abuse remains undetected because the older adult is frequently alone and unaware that they are being exploited or blatantly stolen from.

Who Is Most Likely to Financially Abuse an Elder?

Almost anyone could be in a position to take advantage of an elder financially, but it usually happens to persons who are close enough to the elder to know they are vulnerable.

This may be a close friend of the elder’s lawyer who recognizes an opportunity, a youngster with access to financial accounts, or a professional criminal who preys on the weak and has a system for figuring out who can be used.

Some people send out a lot of scams meant exclusively for seniors without knowing any of their target victims personally.

Family members account for 53% of victims of financial abuse, followed by friends and neighbors (18%), nursing facility staff (17%), and strangers (5%), according to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA).

Older Adults That Are Most Vulnerable To Financial Abuse

Some groups of vulnerable adults at greater risk of financial abuse are:

Elders Who Are Isolated or Socially Disconnected

Elderly persons who are isolated and live alone are more likely to be victimized financially because they may not have anyone to check on them or assist them with managing their cash, leaving them open to theft and phone scams.

Elders With Cognitive Impairment

Scammers and financial predators are more prone to target older people with cognitive impairment, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s. Since dementia restricts a person’s capacity for decision-making, they can be less able to comprehend their financial circumstances.

Elders With Limited Financial Resources

Older people with low financial means are more likely to fall victim to con artists and financial predators because they are more frantic to sell their possessions or cash in their life insurance policy.

Elders Who Have a Disability

Many older people with disabilities cannot work and depend on government assistance. They may become a target for con artists who try to induce them to part with their money or other valuables.

Why Elder Financial Abuse Goes Unreported

There are several reasons nursing home elder financial abuse goes unreported, including;

  • The victim can feel embarrassed or afraid to speak up. They frequently feel humiliated and want no one to know what is happening.
  • The victim may be unaware that they are being taken advantage of financially. They can believe they are being duped or must take care of the abuser.
  • The victim fears upsetting their family because the abuser could be a parent, adult kid, or acquaintance.
  • If the victim attempts to report the abuser, they may face threats or harassment; this frequently happens in nursing homes.
  • The victim might not know where to look for assistance or who to contact.

Whatever the cause, it’s critical to remember that you are not by yourself. You can report the financial exploitation of the elderly through various resources.

How To Spot, Report, and Prevent Elder Financial Abuse

Signs of Elder Financial Abuse

Some widespread signs suggest that an older person may be a victim of financial abuse. These consist of the following:

  • The older adult’s spending habits or financial situation have changed abruptly.
  • The older adult appears afraid to discuss money with anyone in their family or is reluctant to do so.
  • The older adult’s residence needs money or valuables.
  • The senior has unforeseen obligations or outstanding expenses that they cannot explain.
  • The older adult is made to sign legal documents that they do not comprehend.
  • sudden adjustments to bank accounts or unusual credit card usage
  • Large sums of money are removed from or moved between bank accounts.
  • Notifications of unpaid bills, eviction, or foreclosure

If you notice any red flags, it can be a symptom of elder financial exploitation. Therefore, you must discuss your worries with the elderly.

Preparing Proofs Of The Elder Financial Abuse

Establishing financial abuse when reporting is critical for your report to be properly handled.

The bank and police are the only ones who can prove financial elder abuse, but you can make a case by gathering all available proof. This might include credit reports, bank statements, etc. Once you have everything, you must contact the police and present proof to persuade them. 

Reporting Elder Financial Abuse

Even if it isn’t proven, you can report a suspicion of senior financial abuse, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse. Follow these actions to report elder financial exploitation if you believe you or someone you know is a victim:

  • When the potential victim is in immediate danger, dial 911 or your local police department for assistance.
  • Call Adult Protective Services (APS) at 1-833-401-0832 if the suspected victim is not in immediate danger. You will be asked to provide your ZIP code to be transferred to the APS program in your county to file a report.
  • Contact the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program in your state if the alleged victim is housed in a long-term care facility like a nursing home or assisted living facility. Ombudsmen are educated to assist and represent residents of long-term care facilities.
  • You will be questioned about your name, residence, phone number, any known medical issues, the kind of family or social assistance you have access to, and whether you have experienced abuse.
  • Legal difficulties are frequently involved in financial exploitation. Consult the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Inc.’s consumer resources directory to locate a lawyer specializing in elder law.
  • Call the National Elder Scam Hotline at 1-822-372-8311 if you think you’ve been a victim of fraud. The U.S. launched this hotline. The Department of Justice will assign you a case manager to assist you in recovering, which may include completing an FBI report.

Preventing Elder Financial Abuse

There are a few things that you can do to help prevent elder financial abuse.

  • Make sure the senior has a trusted confidante with whom they can discuss their finances.
  • Encourage independence and financial management to prevent other family members from taking advantage of the elder’s condition.
  • Ascertain that the senior has current estate planning papers, such as a durable power of attorney and healthcare directive.
  • Showing the elderly how to spot fraud and scams
  • Ensure the senior has access to all their paperwork and bank accounts.
  • Keep an eye on the elder’s bank records and other financial documents regularly.
  • Any suspicions of elder financial exploitation should be reported to Adult Protective Services.

Elder financial abuse is a significant issue. Therefore, it’s crucial to recognize the warning signs and take action to stop them. Don’t wait for help if you believe someone you know is being exploited financially.

Read Also: Common Financial Issues For Seniors

Additional Resources To Learn More About Financial Abuse


Unfortunately, financial abuse of the elderly occurs frequently and is typically committed by a relative or close friend. The elderly and those near them can take precautions to stop such behavior, but the perpetrators of financial abuse frequently know who is close to the elderly and will go to any lengths to avoid being caught. Elder financial abuse is a painful experience; if there are any indications of abuse, law enforcement, and your state’s protective services should be alerted.

To further help you or your family in protecting their assets against any form of financial abuse, you may also check out or guide on How To Protect Your Asset As A Senior.