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What Is Elder Financial Abuse?

McNair Dallas Law

Elder Financial Abuse - Woman upset about financial abuse

Elder abuse is a rampant problem.

According to the National Council on Aging, older Americans lose up to $36.5 billion each year through financial abuse.

This abuse can happen to anyone, no matter the person’s age, sex, race, religion, education, or ethnic or cultural background.

US News and World Report’s recent article entitled “What Is Financial Abuse?” explains that financial abuse occurs when someone takes control of an individual’s financial resources decreasing the individual’s ability to support themselves.

Hundreds of thousands of adults over the age of 60 are financially exploited every year.  This type of abuse involves misusing funds, from outright theft to withholding money from accounts. The perpetrator could be a family member, spouse, caregiver or anyone else who gains access to the victim’s accounts.

Here are some elder financial abuse signs to watch for:

  • Unpaid bills
  • Unusual changes in spending patterns
  • Fake signatures on financial documents
  • Statements from the victim that their money has been stolen
  • Missing checkbook, credit cards and/or debit cards; and
  • Misuse of power-of-attorney agreements.

The most likely targets of elder financial abuse are senior adults who have no family or friends nearby, and people of any age living with with disabilities, memory problems, or dementia.

While abuse can happen to any older adult, it frequently impacts those seniors who depend on others for help with activities of everyday life — including bathing, dressing and taking medicine.  People who are frail may look to be easy victims.

If you suspect your loved one is being financially abused, there are steps you can take to protect the victim.  In the Dallas area, we have the Elder Financial Safety Center, a non profit partnership between The Senior Source, the Probate Court, and the District Attorney’s Office.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has directions for documenting the abuse and how to file a report to authorities.

As an Elder Law Attorney, I work with clients to appoint Agents under a Power of Attorney and/or Trustees to reduce the risk of financial exploitation and abuse.  Every adult should identify trustworthy and reliable individuals that could step up in case of incapacity or other need.  If you or a loved one need to appoint or update your plan in case of incapacity, contact our office today.  We are here to help.

Reference: US News and World Report (Oct. 12, 2020) “What Is Financial Abuse?”

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