Reports of scams targeting the elderly surface again and again.
But elder financial abuse takes many forms: outright theft of money or property, forged signatures, con games, telemarketing scams, investment fraud, getting an older person to sign over a deed to property and more, according to the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.
The MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse found that the average victim is a woman, age 80 to 89, who lives alone.
"Financial abuse really robs the senior citizen of their self esteem and trust in people," says Dawn King, a member service representative at Dupaco Community Credit Union's Williams Boulevard branch in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
King recommends watching for these signs to help protect your elderly loved ones from financial abuse:
- Be suspicious if she gains a new "best friend" who limits contact with your loved one. Also watch for changes in your loved one's behavior or mood. "A lot of times they become really socially isolated unless they're in that person's presence, and that's something to be alert for," King says.
- Watch for changes in spending patterns - purchases your loved one wouldn't normally make, unexplained withdrawals of large sums of money or cancelled checks. "There might be something behind that, and you need to be asking questions," King says.
- The MetLife study found that 34 percent of the perpetrators of elder financial abuse are well known to the elderly person. "If you look at your loved one and their basic care needs aren't getting met, yet they have the financial means to take care of themselves, there's something going on," King says.
- Ask questions if your loved one makes a sudden change in his longtime financial institution or attorney, or if you notice an unfamiliar name appearing on his bank account.
- Also ask questions if you visit her and notice that a possession that's been in her home for years is gone.
- If something seems amiss, report it to your local adult protective services agency, which you can do anonymously, according to the Home & Family Finance Resource Center. If the danger is more immediate, call the police and ask for a welfare check.
By Emily Kittle