Resource Corner

How to Recognize and Prevent Elder Financial Abuse

Learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones from elder scams.
Elder with head in hands

Financial scams of all kinds are on the rise, but that’s especially the case for ones impacting older individuals. More than 3.5 million older adults are victims of elder financial fraud every year, resulting in billions of dollars in losses.

Protecting yourself or your loved ones from elder scams is possible. By staying informed and taking measures to safeguard financial accounts, you could help prevent an older adult from facing financial fraud.

What is Elder Financial Abuse?
The United States Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) defines financial abuse as occurring “when someone takes or misuses another person’s money or property for the benefit of someone other than that person.”

Elder financial abuse applies specifically to elderly victims. Perpetrators exploit the vulnerabilities of the elderly, such as their frequent reliance on others to help manage their financial affairs, for financial gain. This abuse can take many forms and often involves someone the victim believes they can trust.

Types of Elder Financial Exploitation
Elder financial exploitation typically take two forms: elder theft and elder scams.

Elder theft generally involves the theft of money or other assets by someone an elderly individual trusts, such as a family member or a caregiver. These thieves abuse their positions of trust and use tactics like coercion, deception and intimidation to achieve their desired results.

Elder scams are generally executed by strangers, often from outside the United States. These fraudsters may call the elderly victim or contact them online, either through email or social media, and seek payment for a variety of reasons.

Examples include: 
  • Romance scams: A scammer pretends to be a prospective romantic partner and asks the victim for money.
  • Tech support scams: A scammer poses as a tech support specialist and requests login credentials to financial accounts.
  • Grandparent scams: A scammer poses as the victim’s grandchild and suggests they urgently need money to deal with an emergency.
  • Lottery/sweepstakes scams: A scammer deceptively claims the victim has won a prize and must pay money to claim it.
Ways to Help Prevent Elder Financial Abuse
  • When a person is still mentally sharp, help him or her make a plan that designates power of attorney and health care directives. 
  • Initiate a conversation about scams and the common ways older consumers are targeted. Ask your loved one to contact you if they receive any phone calls or emails that just don’t seem right.
  • Develop a relationship with your parent’s caregiver. They may be less likely to financially exploit someone because they know you’re paying attention.
  • Become a "trusted contact" to monitor bank account and brokerage activity.
  • Track financial activity and notify an advocate of unusual withdrawals or spending.
  • Set up direct deposit for checks so others don’t have to cash them.
  • Do not sign any documents that you don’t understand.
  • Encourage seniors to get details in writing before making any financial transaction. Then, have them share that information with you or another trusted adviser before taking any action.
  • If your loved one uses a computer, make sure their software and security systems are up to date. The patches distributed by software vendors often close known vulnerabilities that cybercriminals may try to exploit.
  • Consider purchasing comprehensive identity protection for seniors in your life that includes credit monitoring, continuous dark web monitoring for exposed credentials, advanced fraud monitoring, smart alerts and top-rated resolution services.


All content is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. You should consult your legal and tax or accounting advisors before making any financial decisions.