While many people understand the implications and instances of physical elder abuse, such as those that may occur at nursing facilities, few realize that elder financial abuse is just as common, yet it goes unreported in many cases. U.S. News notes that elderly Americans lose billions each year to such abuse, but only 26 states carry reporting mandates, which may contribute to this problem.
While elder financial abuse is not always easy to spot, there are a few signs loved ones can watch for in order to protect an elder and his or her financial well-being.
1. An increase in ATM withdrawals
When an older individual grants someone in the family access to a bank account so that person can pay bills, buy groceries and handle the cost of utilities, the family member may start to make cash withdrawals from the ATM more than necessary and pocket additional cash. If the elder has reduced cognitive ability, the excessive withdrawals may go unnoticed. Implementing a system of checks and balances with another trusted family member may prevent this.
2. New or changing credit card use
The ease of applying for a credit card sometimes motivates caregivers to take out credit cards in an elder’s name and use these cards for their own personal gain. Autopay options may also allow the abusers to hide the bills from the elder and any other family members, especially if they are the only ones handling the money.
3. Changes to bill paying practices
Those who participate in elder financial abuse may try to hide their actions by changing certain bill-paying practices. They may cancel or postpone autopayments to gain access to money set aside for credit card or utility bills.
Some elders may hesitate to report the abuse out of shame or because they fear their abuser. A regular review of finances by a trusted family member can prevent this type of exploitation.