Elder Financial Abuse and What to Look out for
Updated: May 11
Elder Financial abuse is a serious problem that affects millions of older adults every year, funneling millions of dollars from the accounts of hard-working and hard-saving seniors into the pockets of scammers and con artists. Often these scammers prey on vulnerabilities that elder people may have, such as their lack of knowledge around technology and their reluctance to ask for assistance from their younger relatives out of embarrassment. Geriatric Care Managers, besides providing direct medical and health consultation, can also help prevent common financial abuse that occurs with Elders. Below are a few different ways in which Elders may be taken advantage of, and how working with a care manager or vigilant caregiver can help.
Many of the scams and financial abuse that hurts Elders relies on pushing and confusing them over the phone, often with a fake “time crunch” insisting that something must happen immediately. These often take the form of “grandchild” calling, asking for bail money to get out of jail and “please don’t tell my mom and dad.” Preying on familial bonds and love for grandchildren, scammers often are able to convince elders to give their Credit Card numbers or bank information. Discovering they have been tricked, older people may then feel ashamed or embarrassed, making them feel isolated and depressed. Another scam is the “computer virus!” scam, where a virus installed on a computer through a pop-up or scummy ad may lock the computer and insist the elder person calls “tech support” (which is really the scammers). One of the ways a care manager or attentive family member can help prevent these types of scams is ensuring that the elder person is aware of the scam, and if they have a mental or physical condition, someone watching over their finances for them.
Just as, if not more, harmful to elders is in-home and familial abuse. Although it is tragic to think about, it is not all that uncommon for family members of questionable moral character to take advantage of a person that they are caring for by abusing their control of finances or the condition of their elder relative or friend. Caregivers who may steal money or valuables from the home are also a danger, as well as family or friends who may commit a crime as heinous as having social security checks sent or written over to themselves rather than the elder who is entitled to them. A Geriatric Care Manager is specifically trained and experienced to catch and prevent this type of abuse. As part of onboarding each client, the Care Managers at Senior Steps go over the financial situation and the caregiver situation, ensuring that no abuse is taking place and if there is, ending it.
Coercion is the implied or explicit threat of some negative consequence in order to force someone to do something they don’t want to. This can be as mundane as a caregiver or family member hinting to their elder relative that they may be unable to continue helping them without “something back” (like a family heirloom), or it may be as blatant as the threat of putting them in a nursing home if they aren’t named first in the will. These sorts of threats are unfortunately common, and they prey on an Elder person’s fear of abandonment and lack of agency. When an elder person relies on someone for their day-to-day activities and daily life, having that threatened is scary and hurtful enough that they may feel forced to give over assets or money. This is also elder abuse, and Geriatric Care Managers are trained to look out for and prevent it.
In conclusion, even with a Geriatric Care Manager, there are things that can be done to prevent elder financial abuse for yourself or your elder loved ones. Keeping an eye out for financial troubles or changes in mood around a “trusted” person can be a good indicator that something may be amiss. Although elders may be ashamed or afraid to admit that they have been taken advantage of, keeping an eye out for things like less-than-usual grocery purchases or unusual spending can be indicators that something is wrong. Knowledge is half the battle.
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Senior Steps provides guidance and assistance with medical, legal, and financial advocacy and planning, and help with activities of daily living.