By 2060, it’s anticipated the percentage of the population age 65 and older will be double what it is today.1 Seniors already make up a large portion of the nation’s wealth, leading to concerns they could be targeted for financial abuse.2 You may have questions about protecting yourself or a senior loved one. This guide provides answers so you can stay educated and be proactive about your financial well-being.
Frequently Asked Questions About Elder Financial Abuse
1. What Is It?
Elder financial abuse is a crime taking advantage of a senior for financial gain, whether it’s their: funds, real estate, investments, or personal property. Abusers see seniors as vulnerable, more trusting, and unlikely to fight back.
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2. Who Commits It?
Surprisingly, 60% of elder financial abuse cases are carried out by someone the victim already knows.3 This could be a: family member, friend, caretaker, health care provider, neighbor, or attorney.
3. What Types Are There?
There are many forms of elder financial abuse. Familiarizing yourself with them will help you identify a potential risk:
- The thief pretends to be someone they aren’t, claiming to be: a charity foundation, law enforcement, a grandchild, a utility company, a lottery or gambling group, etc. to collect an unnecessary payment.
- Identity Theft. The scammer takes advantage of the senior’s credit history to open credit cards or loans. They may ask for a social security number, account number, or other personal information.
- Account Theft. The abuser opens a joint account with a senior to make it easy to withdraw or charge money on the account without approval from the joint accountholder.
- Property Theft. The scammer steals an item from the senior without returning it or buy an item from the senior at a price well below market value.
- Real Estate Fraud. Although methods can vary, the con artist can convince the senior to sign over the deed of their home or encourage the senior to take out an unnecessary, high-interest rate mortgage.
- Investment Scams. The scammer may convince the senior to invest in a high-risk investment or business deal dangerous to the senior’s financial security.
- Legal Document Abuse. The fraudster tricks the senior into signing a power of attorney when the elder isn’t in the right state of mind to do so. This is especially common with wills, trusts, property titles, and transfers on death deeds.
- Phishing Scams. The thief tricks the senior into: opening an email, phone call, text message, or social media direct message containing a malicious link with a virus or malware to hack the computer or device. This makes it easier to obtain any saved personal information on the computer or device to use for financial gain.
5. What Is the Impact?
The financial impact of elder financial abuse can lead to the loss of a home or residence, car, and other property due to the inability to make payments. Losing their hard-earned money may cause seniors to cut back on doctor’s visits and health care, even if it is needed. In addition to financial loss, this type of abuse can have other negative side effects for seniors, like increased skepticism and loss of trust in others; feelings of fear, depression, anger, and shame; and an increased reliance on government assistance due to decreased funds.
6. How Can I Protect Myself?
There are many ways to protect yourself or loved ones. Make sure financial records are organized, and store checkbooks, account statements, and other sensitive information are kept in a safe place. If you want to throw away documents, shred them first to keep personal information out of criminals’ hands. Always know how much money is in checking and savings account(s). Additionally, keep track of your credit card balance. All of this will make it easier to identify any fraudulent charges.
Do not give away your personal information to people you don’t trust or know. This includes your bank account numbers and social security numbers. A financial institution, government agency, or utility company will never initiate a call with you and ask for personal information. Only supply information when you initiated contact and it is a trusted source.
While this number is likely under-reported, it’s estimated 1 in 10 Americans age 65 or older will encounter some form of elder financial abuse in their lifetime, costing Americans upward of $36.5 billion annually.3 GECU is your financial partner and advocate. If you suspect you or a loved one are a victim of financial abuse, reach out to your branch to discuss your options. Skip the lines when you arrive by scheduling an appointment online in advance.
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1 “Elder Abuse Statistics.” Nursing Home Abuse Center, https://www.nursinghomeabusecenter.com/elder-abuse/statistics/#:~:text=Quick%20Statistics%20on%20Elder%20Abuse&text=At%20least%201%20out%20of,older%20by%20the%20year%202060.&text=Elder%20abuse%20often%20goes%20unreported..
2 Malika, Mitra. “Baby Boomers’ Wealth is 12 Times Greater Compared to Millennials. Here’s Why.” CNBC, Aug. 8 2019, https://www.cnbc.com/2019/08/08/baby-boomers-wealth-is-12-times-greater-compared-to-millennials.html.
3 “Get the Facts on Elder Abuse.” National Council on Aging, Feb. 23 2021, https://www.ncoa.org/article/get-the-facts-on-elder-abuse.
4 “FDIC Consumer News: Protecting Seniors from Financial Abuse.” Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, April 2019, https://www.fdic.gov/consumers/consumer/news/april2019.html.