Elderly Financial Exploitation: How to Identify & Steps to Take to Protect Your Client

A older woman sits a desk, taking notes in front of a laptop. This image is supposed to convey elder financial exploitation.

Elder financial exploitation or mistreatment has become more prevalent in recent years. A study by the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA) shows that one in twenty seniors has reported some form of financial mistreatment in the past year.

In many cases, the abusers are people they love or trust, such as family members, friends, caregivers, or neighbors. The shame and fear of being hurt by a loved one often discourages victims from reporting the crime.

If you are an insurance agent or advisor of an elderly client, you need to know how to identify the problem and what steps you can take in the best interest of your client. Read on to learn more about how you can help.

What Is Elder Financial Mistreatment?

Elder financial exploitation occurs when someone misuses or mismanages an older person’s funds, real estate, investments, and other assets. It can be a one-time incident or recurring for years. Older people between the ages of 80-89 and those individuals with cognitive impairments are often more vulnerable to these crimes than others.

When the perpetrator is not a stranger, they often use emotional abuse, intimidation, or deceit to take advantage of the victim. The most common acts of financial exploitation include:

  • Stealing money.
  • Forging signatures for cashing in pension or social security checks.
  • Misusing debit and credit cards.
  • Taking advantage of joint bank accounts.
  • Selling or taking assets without consent.

Signs of Elder Financial Exploitation

Identifying elder financial abuse can be tricky, especially if you don’t know what to look for. Here are some of the common signs of elderly financial exploitation:

  • Change in demeanor. Watch out for any unusual sadness, nervousness, anxiety, or changes in appearance, which could indicate potential abuse.
  • Surprising financial decisions. An abrupt transfer of assets or sudden changes to a person’s will, insurance, or financial documents could indicate exploitation.
  • Change in purchasing or spending patterns. An unusual change in the spending or purchasing patterns of an elder are often a significant indicator of financial distress.
  • New relationships. While personal connection is important, be mindful of the sudden appearance of new friends or acquaintances, especially if they are claiming rights to the older person’s funds.

What Can Agents/Advisors Do?

It’s important to identify and report financial exploitation as quickly as possible to prevent additional misuse of funds. Agents and advisors should request a Trusted Contact be appointed in the client’s file, especially for clients experiencing cognitive impairment. Monitor accounts closely and watch for any red flags that may indicate abuse. Contact a local Adult Protection Services agency for additional support.