Financial Elder Abuse—Some Indicators

Financial Elder Abuse—Some Indicators

By David W. Tate

The possible indicators of elder and dependent adult financial abuse are numerous.  It is not possible to provide an exhaustive list and from a legal perspective for a variety of evidentiary reasons proving abuse in a court of law can be problematic.  Whether actual abuse is occurring, or whether you should suspect that abuse is occurring, really depends upon the facts and circumstances at that time, and how you interpret those facts and circumstances.  While one person might suspect abuse in a particular situation, another person might view the situation differently.  And a legitimate explanation for the occurrence might exist, or it is possible that the elder or dependent adult simply is making what might be considered to be an unwise decision, but is not necessarily being abused.  The list below is intended to be for helpful discussion purposes only.  However, taken from presentation materials that I prepared to help financial institutions spot financial elder abuse for financial institution elder and dependent adult financial abuse legal reporting requirements, possible elder or dependent adult financial abuse typically becomes apparent from a financial situation that appears to be unnatural or out of character for that specific elder, or for the typical similar person in society.  So . . . I hope you find the following list of some of the possible indicators helpful.

-Increased or unusual banking activity.

-An unusually, or out of the ordinary, large transaction.

-The purchase of an unusual item or service.

-Money being paid to or for the benefit of someone out of the ordinary. The person could be a stranger to the elder, a caregiver, a housekeeper, a neighbor, a friend, a gardener, or even a family member.

-A change in account title or authority.

-Someone improperly using his or her authority over the elder's account. Possibly a trustee, attorney in fact, co-account holder, or other person.

-Unusual credit card transactions or balances.

-A change in deed or real property title or ownership.

-Unusual ATM activity.

-Telemarketing and mail fraud; fake prizes; fake accidents; unnecessary purchases or home improvements; getting a windfall upon the payment of money or by providing information.

-Risky, unnecessary or unusual investments, insurance, warranties or annuities.

-Unusual people accompanying the elder; new or unusual acquaintances; new "friends," boyfriends or girlfriends.

-The elder not speaking for himself, or herself; or some other person directing the elder, the situation or the proposed transaction.

-The elder acting in a secretive or evasive manner; or perhaps in an overly defensive or hostile manner in response to questions or even in response to typical conversations.

-The elder being forgetful, disorganized, disoriented, confused, or unaware of his or her surroundings or common events.

-The elder acting paranoid or fearful about the bank, or about his or her accounts.

-A change in the appearance, actions or demeanor of the elder; social withdrawal; unkempt; or health problems, including what is referred to as self abuse.

-The elder being concerned about who will help or assist him or her, or take care of him or her.

-Expressions of concern, pressure, worry or fear.

-Excessive payment for a product or subscription, or for services; or payment for an unnecessary product or subscription, or for services.

-The elder's difficulty or inability to describe or explain a rational need for or eventual use of the product, subscription or services.

-Excessive or unnecessary borrowing by the elder, or someone on his or her behalf.

-The elder wanting to avoid conversation.

-Unusual or unnatural Will, Trust, Power of Attorney, Deed or mortgage terms or documents; or unusual or unnatural changes in the terms or conditions of those documents; or the unusual or unnatural selection or nomination of the person to exercise authority in or over those documents.

-Documents, checks, payments, etc., missing, misplaced or stolen.

-The elder being evicted, or loss of utilities.

-The elder becoming isolated from others, either because of other people causing that isolation, or because of the elder's lack of interest.

-Forged, missing, or strange looking signatures.

-Changes in financial institution.

-Changes in account, IRA, or insurance beneficiaries.

-Unpaid bills.

-The sudden appearance, assistance or interest of strangers, friends or relatives.

-New people helping the elder around the house, or with the yard; home improvements.

-Associating with much younger people.

-Reluctance to discuss financial matters.

-The elder's increasing tiredness or depression.

-The sudden or unexplained transfer of assets.


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  • 07-02-2011

Thank you for the informative post. With financial elder abuse becoming rampant and largely undetected, I think we have to do all we can to look out for our senior family members.