Financial abuse

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Abuse is normally linked with sexual, physical or emotional abuse. But, for older people living in their own homes, financial abuse has been revealed as the second most prevalent form of abuse, behind neglect. This form of abuse can range from taking money from a wallet to manipulating a victim into turning over property to an abuser.


Why should I be aware of this?

  • Such abuse has a devastating effect because with the victim's life savings disappearing, they are unable to provide for their needs and afraid of what an uncertain tomorrow will bring.
  • While financial abuse of elder can take many forms, the most widespread abuses include telemarketing fraud, identity theft, predatory lending and home improvement and estate planning scams.
  • Elder financial abuse costs older Americans more than $2.6 billion per year and is most often perpetrated by family members and caregivers, according to a new report released by the MetLife Mature Market Institute.[1]

All about financial abuse

Financial abuse involves misuse of money, property or other assets by a relative or person in a position of trust.

Forms of financial abuse

  • Stealing money or personal possessions
  • Forcing or tricking a senior to sign pension checks or legal documents
  • Misusing a Power of Attorney
  • Pressuring a senior to provide services for no payment
  • Forcing or tricking a senior into selling his or her property.

Financial abuse is often difficult to detect and frequently occurs over a long period of time. When seniors are financially abuse, they are often victims of other forms of mistreatment such as psychological or physical abuse or neglect.

Signs of financial abuse

  • Sudden removal of large sums of money from a bank account
  • Inability to pay bills, buy food or personal care items
  • Fear or anxiety when discussing finances
  • Visits by a family member only when check arrives
  • Inaccurate or lack of knowledge of personal finances
  • Unexpected revision of a will, or sudden sale of property

Unscrupulous lenders

Older homeowners are often cheated by unscrupulous lenders who persuade them to borrow money through home equity loans for home repairs, debt consolidation or to pay health care costs. Often these loans are packed with excessive fees, costly credit insurance, pre payment penalties and balloon payments. As a result, many homeowners are unable to pay off the loans and lose their homes.

What can I do?

  • Any suspected abuse of an elder should be reported immediately. Without such intervention abuse can continue and often escalates. Known or suspected cases of abuse should be reported to the appropriate agencies or to local law enforcement.
  • Keep money in a bank, not in your home
  • Have pension checks deposited directly into bank account
  • Have written repayment agreement before lending
  • If there is a call from a telemarketer, ask for their company’s name and address. Get written material to study before you make a purchase.
  • Take the advice of someone you trust before making any large purchase or investment.
  • Don’t pay for any prize or send money to improve your chances to win or receive a prize.
  • Don’t give any caller your credit card number or any other form of personal identification.
  • Dispose of all charge receipts, bank statements, expired credit cards or anything that bears your personal information.
  • Never give out your Social Security number unless you have initiated the contact and you are familiar with the institution. Do not have your Social Security number printed on your checks.
  • Unless the individual is known, do not give any of your personal account numbers over the phone to anyone.


  • Thousands of elderly people are having their life-savings, possessions and homes stolen by members of their own family. [2]
  • Solicitors say the rise in financial abuse is partly due to substantial rises in property values.
  • Charities say a lack of awareness of the problem makes such crimes easy.
  • Charities say that the problem of financial abuse has been allowed to grow because many people do not believe it can happen.

90 degrees

One reason the crime proves difficult to detect and prosecute is because very often the abuser is someone the elder has loved and trusted. It is someone the elder wouldn’t like to see in handcuffs, though he may have been ripping him off. [3]


  • Financial Elder Abuse
  • Financial abuse of elderly 'huge'


  1. WebCPA
  2. The BBC NEWS
  3. The New York Times