It is a tragic reality that the elderly are targets for financial abuse. Victims can be isolated or lonely, and they may suffer from mental incapacity or memory loss, which can make them especially vulnerable to abusers.
Unfortunately, the person abusing or exploiting a loved one for financial gain is often someone within their own family.
Why family members financially exploit loved ones
According to statistics, about 1 in 20 seniors report that a family member has financially abused them. There are several reasons why relatives are often the people abusing an older adult. Primarily, they typically already have access to the victim and may also be the person providing care. They spend time with the victim and often exploit the familiarity and trust that exists.
A family member can also have personal motivations driving the abuse that other perpetrators do not. As an example, someone might steal from the parent out of resentment or anger over childhood traumas, or they may feel entitled to a victim’s assets.
Further, a family member may be the only personal relationship a victim has, making it easier for abuse to go unreported.
Signs of financial abuse by a relative
A person who is financially abusing or exploiting a family member can exhibit various questionable behaviors, including:
- Isolating the victim from others
- Unexpectedly selling property
- Making lavish purchases
- Spending unusual amounts of time with the victim
- Moving the victim to a new home or facility without adequate explanation
- Making frequent or large withdrawals from the victim’s accounts
- Claiming to be a care provider despite signs of inadequate care, like a victim’s poor hygiene, unexplained injuries or lack of food
- Failing to provide plausible explanations when questioned about their actions
- Having a victim sign legal documents, like a will, without allowing them to seek legal guidance
If you notice any of these unusual or troubling behaviors, you may want to consider filing a report with the police or contacting Adult Protective Services.
Unfortunately, financial exploitation may not be uncovered until the damage is already done. The victim may have lost property and money they cannot recover. Because of this, it is crucial to check in on elderly loved ones often and call attention to any questionable behavior right away.