With advances in health care, Americans are living longer lives and well into retirement. Some of these elderly people are vulnerable. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 47 million citizens are over the age of 70.

Elder exploitation or abuse is not uncommon in the U.S. This happens when someone close to an elder diverts or steals money, property or assets through fraud or deception.

Con artists, and other immoral people prey on vulnerable elderly adults from all walks of life. But it’s not always a stranger off the street that exploits an elderly adult. Family members can abuse vulnerable adults by mismanaging and misappropriating assets. According to medicareadvantage.com, unscrupulous people fleece $36 billion per year from elders.

A family member, relative or long-time friend engages in abuse

Over years or decades, a relative or friend can form a strong relationship with an aging senior. Using long-standing trust, they identify weaknesses and areas of sympathy. Then they access and assess the accounts, assets and property of the elder. In many cases, this person swindles a large portion of the estate away from the elder.

A new friend in the elder’s life

A new person befriends a senior citizen and forms a trusting and endearing relationship. The elder appreciates the attention and companionship. Often, they don’t suspect the person’s motives.

The new friend often asks probing questions and learns about the elder’s assets. Once trust has been established, this fraudster can often confuse and manipulate the elder to do any number of things against their best interest.

In many cases, skilled manipulators carry out these misdeeds without being discovered because it’s well orchestrated and convincing. An elderly person is compelled to sign away property, transfer money from accounts and drain funds.

Take the steps necessary to protect elders

Family members and friends are often devastated and appalled when parents or elderly family members have suffered financial fraud. Their goal is to keep their elders safe, protected and well cared for.

It’s often easy to dismiss odd circumstances or telltale signs of financial impropriety. However, adult children, relatives or caregivers need to champion their aging loved ones.

As a responsible caregiver, you need to verify who’s in contact with your elderly loved one. You need to keep close tabs on finances, accounts, credit cards and other assets. Equally as important, you need to check in with your loved one and see if anything is unusual or wrong.