Signs of elder abuse are generally evident but not always as obvious as black and blue marks, loud screaming and crying confrontations. A victim’s unexplained physical injuries or sudden financial problems are signs of abuse, neglect and exploitation.

Perhaps most alarming is that roughly two-thirds of the abusers are family members, often the victim’s spouse, adult children or grandchildren. Research also shows that abusers could be dependent on the victim’s resources, live in the victim’s home and may have additional personal problems, such as substance abuse.

Financial exploitation, also known as financial abuse, is when someone improperly uses your money or belongings for themselves. This can be someone you know or a complete stranger. 

Elderly financial abuse includes a broad range of schemes from identity theft to abuse of power of attorney and guardianship, instances where the funds of the older adult, property or assets are illegally or improperly used for another person’s profit or gain. The abuser often preys on the generosity, sympathy, emotions or naiveté of an elderly person.

However, there are things you can do to help protect yourself.

Recognize common warning signs!

Signs that could indicate you are being exploited include:

Have you noticed withdrawals or credit card charges on your bills that you did not make?

Did you find out someone made changes to a will, trust, mortgage or deed without you knowing?

Has someone threatened to place you in a nursing home if you do not give them control of your finances?

Do these examples sound familiar to you?

If so, be cautious! Dishonest people target seniors and will abuse or take advantage of them.

To avoid potential abuse, consider doing the following:

Do not provide personal information (e.g., Social Security number, credit card) over the phone unless you placed the call and know with whom you are speaking.

If you are offered a “prize,” “loan” or “investment” that sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.

Take your time. Consult with someone you trust before making a large purchase or investment.

Don’t sign any documents you don’t completely understand without first consulting an attorney or family member you trust.

Tear up and shred credit receipts, bank statements and financial records before disposing of them.

If you hire someone for personal assistance services, complete a background check first.

Get on the National Do Not Call Registry to reduce telemarketing calls. Call 888-382-1222

Remember, law enforcement and social service agencies cannot be everywhere. It takes all of us to help make sure that those who need protection are safe. If you see abuse or suspect abuse, report it. All abuse can be reported in confidence and all of the complaints are investigated. Intervention often can save the assets, health, dignity or even the life of an older adult. Report fraud or financial exploitation at 1-800-222-4444.

 

*AARP Fraud Tips www.aarp.org/aarp-foundation/our-work/income/info-2015/fraud-prevention.html#:~:text=Report%20fraud%20or%20financial%20exploitation,%2D800%2D222%2D4444

**Source: Florida Department of Elder Affairs, 2022.