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Protecting a Loved One from Financial Exploitation


An older adult holding up her credit card

Financial exploitation or abuse of older adults occurs when a person’s resources are used by another for personal profit or gain, or when actions are taken that deprive an older person of the benefits entitled to them. No one is immune. This sort of theft can happen to anyone regardless of social standing and education levels.

Financial abuse can come in many different forms. Some businesses prey on older adults and use unfair, deceptive and abusive practices. That said, not all of the abusers are strangers. Many times, financial exploitation is committed by a person that we know and trust. We should be aware that potential abusers are often people with:

  • Drug or alcohol issues
  • Gambling problems
  • Untreated mental illnesses 
  • Financial dependency issues

If this describes anyone who is a close relative or caregiver for our loved ones, we should be alert.
We can start by having a conversation with our loved ones about different financial scams. This conversation can be started by recounting a story on the news about a telephone scam or information theft through the internet. We can continue the conversation by reviewing guidelines with our loved ones and reminding them that they should never e-mail account numbers to anyone or fall for an e-mail about someone in an emergency situation who desperately needs money. Telephone scam artists can also be aggressive. We should tell our loved ones that it is fine to hang up on a person who is pushing them for money over the phone.

To further protect our loved ones, we can:

  • Educate them on identifying theft and the importance of shredding any documents with their personal information
  • Buy them a paper shredder and teach them how to use it
  • Encourage them to sign up for direct deposit for their paycheck, retirement check or any government benefits. This will prevent someone from stealing a check out of their mailbox
  • Let them know that they are not obligated to help family members who ask for money. They should be wary of anyone who asks them for money, and then asks them to keep it a secret.

There are also agencies that can help. The Eldercare Locator can help us locate resources in our loved ones area. They can also be contacted at (800) 677-1116. If we have concerns about our loved ones financial products, such as their mortgage, credit cards or bank accounts, contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at (855) 411-2372.

A version of this article appeared in the Private Health News. 

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