Financial elder abuse is one of the most pervasive types of crime in the U.S. today. According to Money Crashers, financial elder abuse refers to the mismanagement or theft of an elderly person’s money, investments, real estate or personal property. Financial elder abuse can take place over the course of several years, or it can be a one-time incident. Sadly, the most common perpetrators of financial elder abuse are family members, neighbors and caretakers.
Unless you know what to look for, you may find it difficult to identify financial elder abuse. That said, almost every case comes with tell-tale signs. Common signs of financial elder abuse are as follows:
- Missing Money: Review your loved one’s bank statements and investment accounts for signs of missing funds.
- Unusual Credit Card Activity: If your loved one uses his or her credit card more than normal, it could indicate financial misappropriation. The same is true if you detect changes in the “Authorized User.”
- Missing Possessions: If you start to notice items missing from your loved one’s room or home, or if you notice new and odd possessions, it could be a sign of financial elder abuse.
- Lack of Food in the Home, Unpaid Bills and Collection Notices: A major red flag that your loved one is the target of financial elder abuse is mismanaged money or neglect of self-care.
- Changes in Mood or Demeanor: Some elderly people know they are the targets of financial elder abuse but are too afraid to say anything. In these cases, they become withdrawn, nervous or anxious. If you notice changes in personality, it may be time to investigate further.
The best thing you can do if you suspect financial elder abuse is to involve yourself in your loved one’s life and finances. Contact his or her financial institutions to gather more information and, if you feel it is necessary, report the abuse to the appropriate authorities.