Financial Abuse

Recognize Financial Elder Abuse

Financial abuse or exploitation of an older adult is when someone illegally or improperly uses an elder's assets, funds, or property. This form of abuse can be devastating because an elder victim's life savings can disappear in the blink of an eye, leaving them unable to provide for their needs and afraid of what an uncertain tomorrow will bring.

The financial abuser can be a family member, a caregiver, a partner, or a stranger

Why Older Adults Are So Vulnerable to Financial Abuse

There are many reasons that older adults fall prey to financial abuse. It is important to be aware of these to help avoid such exploitation.

  • Abusers may assume that frail victims will not survive long enough to follow through on legal interventions, or that they will not make convincing witnesses.
  • Many seniors do not realize the value of their assets (particularly homes that have appreciated markedly).
  • Older adults are likely to have disabilities that make them dependent on others for help. These helpers may have access to homes and assets, and may exercise significant influence over the older person.
  • Older adults often develop predictable financial patterns (e.g. because older people are likely to receive monthly checks, abusers can predict when an older person will have money on hand or need to go to the bank).
  • Severely impaired individuals are also less likely to take action against their abusers as a result of illness or embarrassment.
  • Some older people are unsophisticated about financial matters or new technology that manages their financial matters.

Elder Financial Abuse Examples

  • Cashing an elder's checks without authorization
  • Convincing or forcing an elder to alter a will to benefit someone that a clear-thinking elder would not have chosen
  • Convincing or forcing an elder to sign a contract that results in unwanted financial or material commitments
  • Giving the elder incorrect change for a purchase in a store
  • Handling an elder's money without durable power of attorney (which authorizes the person to manage the elder's finances)
  • Identity theft, including collecting checks and cashing them after the person has died
  • Scamming an elder by convincing him or her to withdraw money from the bank, and then taking the money
  • Selling sweepstakes entries where the elder is extremely unlikely to win anything
  • Stealing elders' checks, such as Social Security checks or pension checks, from the U.S. mail
  • Stealing household goods or money while caring for an elder
  • Telemarketing fraud
  • Using the elder's charge card number for one's own benefit
  • Withdrawing cash from an elder's bank account with an ATM card, without the elder's permission

Help Veterans Protect Themselves From Scams & Financial Abuse

Share information and resources with vets and their families to protect their finances. 

There are many scams involving vets and their families, including so-called "investment seminars" to charity scams claiming to support troops. For more information on protecting veterans visit The Center On Elder Abuse website.

Additional Information

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Website
Phone: 855-411-2372