As your loved ones become older and lose their financial independence, they can become vulnerable to a number of abusive and predatory behaviors.
Financial exploitation from family members, friends, and even care staff is a common occurrence. Predatory situations can lead to bank accounts being drained and can leave your loved ones destitute after a lifetime of financial planning and saving.
Knowing how to spot predatory situations early on can help prevent financial catastrophes and protect the assets of your older family members.
Elder Abuse — an Epidemic
According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, approximately 6 million cases of abuse were reported in 2010. To put it into perspective, that’s about 10% of the entire senior population who reported some type of abusive situation or predatory behavior.
Abuse can be financial, physical, or emotional, and experts say many cases go unreported.
Financial predators look to steal money, property, and other assets from seniors who can no longer manage their financial situation alone. This can be particularly problematic for elders who suffer from declining mental health concerns like dementia, Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s disease.
Most Common Red Flags in Predatory Situations
Because elders can easily fall victim to individuals with ill intentions, it’s important to know the most obvious signs of predatory situations.
- Unexpected changes to an elder’s property, will, or power of attorney
- Irregular charges to their bank account or credit card
- Products purchased that the elder has no need for
- Bills and other debts left unpaid despite the elder having the resources
- Missing cash or items of value from the elder’s home
- Suspicious new friendships, often “new best friends”
Should you notice any of these signs, it’s important to investigate or report them to the appropriate authorities.
Other Warning Signs to Look for
Oftentimes, predatory situations might not be so apparent. Predators know to be careful so they don’t tip anyone off about their abuse
Additional signs that could point to your loved ones being targeted for abuse include:
- Depression and anxiety
- Denial of issues
- Difficulty or fear of speaking
- Noted changes in socialization
- Disengagement and withdrawal
- Physical signs of abuse
Though it can be difficult for both parties to discuss and recognize predatory situations, it’s important to be vigilant and not ignore even the smallest of warning signs.
Who are the most common predators in cases of elder abuse?
Although many assume the most common perpetrators of elder abuse are strangers, the opposite is actually true.
Family members are the leading predators in elder abuse cases because they already hold a high level of confidence. Statistics from the National Center on Elder Abuse show that approximately 53% of financial abuse was committed by family members, particularly children and spouses.
Trusted Caregivers and Medical Staff
Many vulnerable elders find themselves exploited by those who are entrusted to care for them, such as staff in medical facilities and nursing homes.
Because these predators have easy access to checks, credit cards, and sensitive information, the abuse can be effortless. Many times, care staff will steal information to access bank accounts or even commit identity theft.
Attorneys and Accountants
Older loved ones sometimes entrust attorneys or other financial planners to manage their assets. Unfortunately, many of these individuals use their position of power to abuse their clients.
It’s important to regularly monitor your loved one’s assets, even when they are being managed by financial or legal professionals.