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Identify Signs of Elder Financial Abuse



Financial crimes against the elderly don't occur in a vacuum.

When the elderly are victims of financial exploitation, patterns of suspicious activity should be red flags, according to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), a bureau of the Treasury Department.

By looking for these red flags, employees at credit unions and other financial institutions play a key role in exposing cases of financial exploitation of the elderly. Warning signs can include erratic or unusual banking transactions, or changes in banking patterns, such as:

  • Frequent large withdrawals, including daily maximum ATM withdrawals.
  • Sudden nonsufficient fund activity.
  • Out of character nonpayment for services, which could signal a loss of funds or loss of access to funds.
  • Debit transactions that are inconsistent for the elder.
  • Out of character attempts to wire large sums of money.
  • Closing of certificate or other accounts without concern for penalties.

Some interactions with caregivers also can set off alarms. Suspicious behaviors include:

  • A caregiver or other individual shows inappropriate interest in the elder's finances or assets, does not allow the elder to speak for himself or herself, or is reluctant to leave the elder's side during conversations.
  • The elder shows an unusual degree of fear or submissiveness toward a caregiver, or expresses a fear of eviction or nursing home placement if money is not given to a caretaker.
  • Credit union employees are unable to speak directly with the elder, despite repeated attempts to contact him or her.
  • A new caretaker, relative, or friend suddenly begins conducting financial transactions on behalf of the elder without proper documentation.
  • The elder moves away from established relationships and toward new associations with other "friends" or strangers.
  • The elderly individual's financial management changes suddenly, for example through a change of power of attorney to a different family member or to a new individual.
  • The elder lacks awareness or information about his or her financial status, or shows a sudden reluctance to discuss financial matters.

For more information about identifying and reporting elder financial abuse, visit the National Center on Elder Abuse.

Copyright 2001-2013, Originally published April 14, 2011, Reviewed August 26, 2013



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