Elder Financial Abuse Protection
LAFCU is committed to protecting our senior members from financial exploitation, more commonly referred to as “Elder Financial Abuse.” According to the U.S. Justice Department, about 10% of adults over age 65 will experience some form of financial abuse in a given year. Here are some ways to detect, prevent, and report it.
What is It?
Elder financial abuse is any theft or embezzlement of money or other property from a person aged 65 and older. It is defined as the action of someone illegally or improperly using an elder’s money or belongings for their own personal use. Due to the sizeable savings that elders have amassed over a lifetime, they have become a desired target for criminals. They will take advantage of mental impairment, loneliness, and isolation of elders to gain access to their finances and other property. A majority of cases involve family members who take advantage of elder relatives by exploiting their family connection.
Some Warning Signs
- Unusual financial activity: This includes large withdraws, questionable credit card charges, large money transfers or recurring transactions the elder adult doesn’t recall making. It’s normal to forget some things but when it starts happening regularly and in large amounts, that could be a warning sign.
- New friends or helpers: Be on the lookout for any new acquaintances or a family member who suddenly appears and tries to insinuate themselves into the elder’s life. If they try to cut the elder off from other family members and make themselves the sole caregiver and indispensable, it could be a sign they are exploiting the relationship to gain financial access.
- Requests to change financial ownership: Abrupt changes to a will, sudden requests to include new signatures on financial documents or the bank signature card, or discovery of forged signatures are red flags.
- Cognitive decline and impaired judgement: Seniors who are isolated and living alone are susceptible to exploitation. For individuals who are beginning to experience cognitive decline, isolation can worsen the condition. Loss of activity and mental stimulation can impair their judgment further making them easy targets for the unscrupulous.
- Bills left unpaid despite ability to pay them: Bills that were always paid on time and other basic record keeping tasks that are now being neglected are cause for concern. Any sudden change of routine or out of character activity are as well. This could signal that someone or something is impeding their ability to pay bills because their finances have been depleted or they have loss access to their accounts.
How to Prevent Becoming a Victim
- Have a family conversation and have a plan in place. Know what key documents are needed and are already completed. Designate a family member to create a “personal balance sheet” to keep track of income and expenses. Have family financial meetings on a regular basis. Be proactive.
- Never give out your personal information over the phone. The IRS, Social Security Administration, and other agencies will never call asking for your information unless you initiated the call first. It’s always best to hang up and call the agency directly to verify if there is a problem.
- If in-home care is needed, make sure to do a background check or if a company is providing care, verify they do background checks and vet their applicants. This applies to any worker providing a service for you.
- Designate someone you trust as your financial power of attorney.
- Sign up for a service that monitors your bank/credit union, credit, and investment accounts. Review your credit report for inconsistencies.
- If you have a loved one who is a senior, keep in touch. Call, text, and visit to see how they are doing. If you suspect anything unusual, report it.
To Report Abuse
In California, call Adult Protection Services (APS) at (833) 401-0832 and when prompted, enter your 5-digit zip code to be connected to the APS in your county, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.
Be assured that LAFCU has our members’ safety and financial well-being at heart. Our staff is trained to report suspected elder abuse to the appropriate authorities without violating their privacy.
Adult Protective Services (CA Dept of Social Services)
About Elder Abuse (US Dept of Justice)
National Elder Fraud Hotline (Office for Victims of Crime)
Video from the NCUA about Reporting Elder Financial Abuse or Exploitation