The “Golden Years” – Not so Golden for Some

Thu, 16 Aug 2012

The “golden years” conjures up images of retirement, relaxation, and enjoying the fruits of years of labor. Unfortunately, an increasing number of seniors are not enjoying this time because they are victims of elder abuse. The three most prevalent areas of elder abuse are:  physical and emotional abuse, abuse in long-term care facilities, and financial abuse. This blog will focus on financial elder abuse.


Financial Elder Abuse

Financial abuse is the theft or embezzlement of money or any other property from an elder. It can be as simple as taking money from a wallet and as complex as manipulating a victim into turning over property to an abuser. Opportunists see the “golden years” as the perfect time to rob seniors of their life’s savings. The impact of this crime goes far beyond the financial loss and can threaten an elder’s health and dignity. Take the fraud test at


Who's at Risk

Elders most likely to experience financial abuse are between the ages of 70 and 89, are white, female and often can be considered “frail”. Criminals are known to search the obituaries to find potential victims. They often prey on recent widows, who may lack experience in financial matters. This isn’t always the case though; take a look at the massive fraud that impacted two retired educators.


Potential financial abusers can be conservators, caregivers, powers of attorney, representative payees, financial advisors, family members, friends, or complete strangers. Abusers use the tactics of extortion, intimidation, forgery, theft, threats, and scams, to complete the fraud. Read this article on a former CPA stealing from an Alzheimer’s patient.


Behavioral Warning Signsbeware of new people in your senior's life - elder financial abuse

Some behavioral warning signs of potential elder abuse are: the elder is withdrawn, confused or extremely forgetful, depressed, helpless or angry, hesitant to talk freely, frightened, or secretive. Additionally, an elder could be isolated or lonely with no visitors or relatives. Family members or a caregiver could be isolating the individual, restricting their contact with others. The elder might not be given the opportunity to speak freely or have contact with others without the caregiver being present.  


Financial Warning Signs

Some financial warning signs are: unusual bank account activity, such as ATM withdrawals when the individual is homebound; signatures on checks and other documents that do not resemble the elder’s signature; numerous unpaid bills when someone else has been designated to pay the bills; a change in spending activity; or a new acquaintance who offers to manage the elder’s finances and assets. 

Take a look at the FBI’s list of warning signs. The best way to deal with financial elder abuse is to prevent it by carefully choosing trustworthy individuals to act as agents, successor trustees or conservators.


How to Report Abuse

Any person who suspects that elder abuse has occurred should report it. The reporting person is protected from both criminal and civil liability. You can contact the Department of Elder Services in the community that you live or work in or click here for additional resources. You can also visit this site to learn more about elder fraud.  


Do you care for an elder who has been targeted for financial fraud? What steps have you taken to protect him/her?