The local news is full of stories about older adults or those living with disabilities, who have been the victim of a scam. Just as troubling as these stories are the statistics showing that 90% of senior financial abuse is perpetrated by friends, loved ones, neighbors, or aides employed to help them around the home. Seniors and those with a disability are often at greater risk because their health conditions and physical impairments make them at an easier target. Those who live alone without family close by are at highest risk.

How can you tell if your loved one is being taken advantage of and what can you do to protect them from financial abuse?

Signs of Financial Abuse

Warning signs a loved one with a disability or a senior loved one might be in trouble include:

  • New “friends” who seem unlikely to have much in common with your loved one
  • Overdue notices on bills
  • Withdrawals or money transfers from their savings or checking accounts that they can’t remember making
  • Missing bank statements or checks
  • Phone calls from creditors or credit card companies your loved one doesn’t have a fiduciary relationship with
  • Increasing number of missing valuables and property
  • Changes made to PINs and passwords
  • New “friends” who seem unlikely to have much in common with your loved one
  • Overdue notices on bills
  • Withdrawals or money transfers from their savings or checking accounts that they can’t remember making
  • Missing bank statements or checks
  • Phone calls from creditors or credit card companies your loved one doesn’t have a fiduciary relationship with
  • Increasing number of missing valuables and property
  • Changes made to PINs and passwords

Any of these can signal your loved one might be the victim of financial abuse that needs to be further investigated.

Protecting Loved Ones from Financial Abuse

What can caregivers do to protect loved ones from financial abuse?

  • Monitor their financial accounts. Technology has made this much easier to do. If you set up an online account with their bank and other investment accounts, you can login to monitor the status from wherever you are. That helps you identify any questionable transactions early.
  • Keep important documents and account numbers locked up. If your loved one has in-home helpers, make sure they do not have access to important items like their Social Security card or bank statements. Keep all of this important information locked up in a home safe or safe deposit box. Be sure to have photos of all valuables too. That will help the police have a better chance of finding them in case they go missing.
  • Conduct background checks on all employees. Anyone who will routinely be in your loved one’s home to help them needs to undergo a complete background check. It should be conducted before they begin caring for your family member.
  • Use bank and credit card alerts. Most financial institutions and credit card companies allow you to set up notifications if certain spending thresholds are reached. You can receive a text message and/or email to let you know. Be sure to take advantage of these free services to protect your loved one.

For more resources on financial abuse of the disabled and elderly, visit StopFraud.gov.