As your loved ones age, they become more vulnerable physically and financially. Family members, friends, business associates and caregivers can be guilty of financial exploitation if they use coercion, trickery or emotional manipulation to take control of a senior’s finances or help themselves to a senior’s assets.
How can you spot the signs of financial exploitation? If your loved one has a pile of unpaid bills and is going without, the issues may be obvious, but if you are unsure, consider some of these indications of trouble.
1) Unexplained financial transactions
Most seniors have predictable expenses, so the sudden appearance of unfamiliar charges, transfers of funds and checks written to people that you do not recognize are an immediate red flag. Unless your senior has an immediate and clear explanation, this is a definite concern.
2) Sudden changes in legal documents
It’s wise to suspect some sort of coercion when a senior suddenly makes major changes to their will, trusts or powers of attorney designations, especially if they seem hesitant to explain their reasoning. If their new documents seem to give one person an extraordinary amount of control, that is suspect.
3) Significant gifts or excessive fees
Be wary if a senior suddenly makes a significant cash gift to a caregiver for no particular reason or a caregiver, business associate, repair professional or spiritual advisor seems to be charging exorbitant fees for their services. Even if your senior is happy to pay them, this can indicate that they simply are not aware that they are being exploited.
4) Missing money or other items
When a senior’s prized possessions, collections or jewelry go missing, that is definitely a cause for further inquiry, especially if the senior seems confused about the situation or does not remember what happened to the assets.
If you are concerned about an elderly relative’s well-being and suspect that financial abuse is occurring, it may be time to explore options such as guardianship or financial conservatorship. Both can put a halt to financial exploitation and better protect your loved one’s interests.