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  • Elder Fraud and Financial Abuse Concerns: Spotting Elder Fraud as a Caregiver

    Elder financial fraud victimizes hundreds of thousands of elderly persons each year. Older Americans hold the largest percentage of this nation’s wealth, making them prime targets for abuse by unethical financial professionals, scammers, caregivers and even family members. Elder financial abuse is the misuse of an older person’s property or financial resources without their consent or understanding. Senior financial abuse scams are a multi‐billion dollar “industry.” Estimates say that it costs $2.6 billion a year. It can cause older Americans additional stress and serious health care concerns.

    Scammers use a variety of tricks and scenarios to steal, such as misusing credit cards, telemarketing, jury notices, and phishing emails. For more about the most common scams, read our special report on senior fraud. Victims of financial abuse are usually between the ages 80 and 89. Women are twice as likely to be targeted as men. Most of those victimized live alone and require some type of assistance either with health care or home maintenance.

    Caregivers, therefore, are often the ones that will see a problem first because of their close relationship with the elder. Caregivers frequently oversee or otherwise assist with finances of the person for whom they care. They may also have the Durable Power of Attorney, which allows you to make financial decisions for someone who has become incapacitated.

    Here are some common tactics that scammers and fraudsters use:

    • High pressure or misleading sales efforts (excessive fees and interest rates, large prepayment penalties, etc.)
    • Asking for personal information over the phone
    • Promises of gifts when signing up right away
    • People who promise to split money found, after a “good faith” payment is made


    You should also be aware of indications that someone has already become a victim. Some warning actions are:

    • Failure to pay bills, or bounced checks when there should be enough money to cover expenses
    • Failure to buy food or medication, especially if other unnecessary purchases are being made (jewelry, golf clubs, home repairs)
    • Taking out large amounts of money from bank or cash accounts, or making numerous withdrawals of smaller amounts
    • Missing personal property or belongings
    • Becoming too close with a much younger or otherwise inappropriate person
    • Writing checks for large amounts to people you do know


    For more information about how to protect those you care about, read our report written in conjunction with the Center for American Nurses on Protecting Your Mother from Financial Fraud and Abuse. If you believe the person for whom you care has become a victim of financial fraud,take a look at our caregiver booklet for a list of resources and agencies you can contact. The Senate Aging Committee also recently launched an Anti-Fraud Hotline designed to help elder Americans fight against fraud. The number is 1-855-303-9470. You can learn more about it from the committee’s press release here.


    Seniors who are victims of financial fraud and abuse have little opportunity to recover financially from their losses.  It is important to educate yourself and the person you are caring for about this important issue.  As a caregiver, you can play a key role in detecting signs of possible financial fraud or abuse.

    One Response to “Elder Fraud and Financial Abuse Concerns: Spotting Elder Fraud as a Caregiver”

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    About Us

    WISER is a nonprofit organization that works to help women, educators and policymakers understand the important issues surrounding women's retirement income. WISER creates a variety of consumer publications including fact sheets, booklets and a quarterly newsletter that explain in easy-to-understand language the complex issues surrounding Social Security, divorce, pay equity, pensions, savings and investments, banking, home-ownership, long-term care and disability insurance.

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