Seniors, especially those who are largely isolated from others due to illness or infirmity, are particularly vulnerable to abuse, including financial exploitation.
In fact, the problem may be worse than many people realize. According to the government, 40 percent of seniors suffer financial exploitation, many of them at the hands of the people they trust the most. However, would you recognize the signs of financial abuse if you saw them?
There are the things that every person who cares about a senior should know to help keep their loved one safe, including the most common warning signs of abuse.
1. The senior becomes increasingly withdrawn and distrustful of everyone except for one individual. That’s often a sign that the individual involved is somehow creating suspicion in the senior’s eyes toward others and positioning himself or herself in a place of trust and power. That person will use the position of trust to manipulate the senior further and take over the senior’s finances.
2. There are unusual withdrawals from the senior’s account via ATM cards (which the senior is unlikely to use if he or she is fairly housebound) or checks (all suspiciously written to the same person).
3. The senior makes a sudden and unexpected change to his or her will, especially if there’s a new heir listed or someone is virtually disinherited in favor of someone else. While changes do happen as family relationships should change, it would be wise to question the motivation behind the change.
4. A younger relative or “friend” suddenly moves in with the senior and seems to be handling all of his or her financial affairs. Be particularly concerned if it suddenly seems harder to contact the senior directly or you’re unable to visit with the senior alone because the relative is always hovering.
5. The senior is suddenly incurring a large number of bills for unnecessary services. That could be the sign that he or she has fallen victim to a con artist.
6. You see signatures on financial documents, titles, deeds, powers of attorney paperwork or anything else that do not seem to match the senior’s prior signatures.
If you suspect elder abuse, contact an elder law attorney and your community’s Adult Protective Services for advice on how to proceed.