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You, or someone you know, could become the victim of a growing crime in America — financial exploitation of older Americans. Criminals are targeting people of all ages, and especially older people  of exploitation. As people over 50 years old hold most of the nation's wealth, fraudsters are using new tactics to take advantage of retiring baby boomers and the growing number of older Americans.

What Is Elder Financial Exploitation?

It is the fastest-growing form of elder abuse and it is defined as the illegal, unauthorized, or improper use of an older person's funds, property, or assets. It’s a crime that deprives older adults of their resources and ultimately their independence. Perpetrators may be family members, friends, neighbors, caregivers, health care providers, business associates, or strangers.

Tips for Seniors

What should you do to protect yourself?

  • Plan ahead to protect your assets and to ensure your wishes are followed. Consider a financial caregiver.
  • Shred receipts, bank statements and unused credit card offers before throwing them away.
  • Lock up your checkbook, account statements and other sensitive information when others will be in your home.
  • Regularly review your credit report. Never give personal information, including Social Security Number, account number or other financial information to anyone over the phone unless you initiated the call and trust the other party.
  • Never pay a fee or taxes to collect sweepstakes or lottery “winnings.”
  • Never rush into a financial decision. Ask for details in writing and get a second opinion.
  • Consult with a financial advisor or attorney before signing any document you don’t understand.
  • Get to know your banker and build a relationship with the people who handle your finances. They can look out for any suspicious activity related to your account.
  • Check references and credentials before hiring anyone. Don’t allow workers to have access to information about your finances.
  • Pay with credit cards instead of cash to keep a paper trail.
  • You have the right not to be threatened or intimidated. If you think someone close to you is trying to take control of your finances, call your local Adult Protective Services and tell someone at your bank.
  • Trust your instincts. Exploiters  often are very skilled. They can be charming and forceful in their effort to convince you to give up control of your finances. Don’t be fooled—if something doesn’t feel right, it may not be right. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

What should you do if you are a victim of financial exploitation?

  • Talk to a trusted family member or friend.
  • Tell your bank.
  • Report it to your local police.
  • File a report with the FBI at IC3.Gov.

Tips for Family and Friends

What are the warning signs of elder financial exploitation?

Look for changes in patterns of behavior. Watch out for these “red flags”:

  • Unusual activity in an older person’s bank accounts, including large, frequent or unexplained withdrawals.
  • ATM withdrawals by an older person who has never used a debit or ATM card.
  • Changing from a basic account to one that offers more complicated services the customer does not fully understand or need.
  • Withdrawals from bank accounts or transfers between accounts the customer cannot explain.
  • New “best friends” accompanying an older person to the bank.
  • Sudden non-sufficient fund activity or unpaid bills.
  • Closing CDs or accounts without regard to penalties.
  • Uncharacteristic attempts to wire large sums of money.
  • Suspicious signatures on checks, or outright forgery.
  • Confusion, fear or lack of awareness on the part of an older customer.
  • Refusal to make eye contact, shame or reluctance to talk about the problem.
  • Checks written as “loans” or “gifts.”
  • Bank statements that no longer go to the customer’s home.
  • New powers of attorney the older person does not understand.
  • A caretaker, relative or friend who suddenly begins conducting financial transactions on behalf of an older person without proper documentation.
  • Altered wills and trusts.
  • Loss of property.

What should you do if you suspect elder financial exploitation?

  • Talk to your older loved ones. Try to determine what specifically is happening with their financial situation.
  • Report elder financial exploitation to their bank.
  • Contact Adult Protective Services.
  • Reach out to the police and file a report with the FBI at IC3.Gov.

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