Financial exploitation

Did you know that as many as 17 percent of Americans over the age of 65 have reported being a victim of financial exploitation? Worse, it's estimated that only one in 44 cases ever comes to the attention of protective services according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

It takes everyone of us to know how best to protect ourselves, our family and our friends. Financial exploitation comes in many forms and from many different people. Some are known by the victim such as family members, care givers, friends, neighbors, romantic interests, and others are complete strangers like telephone scammers, fraudulent debt collectors, internet scammers and many more.

Older adults at risk

Older adults are more at risk because of the following circumstances or conditions, especially in combination:

  • Have regular income and accumulated assets
  • May be trusting and polite
  • Socially isolated and lonely
  • Grieving due to the loss of a spouse, friend, family member or pet
  • They depend on the person that is exploiting them
  • Unfamiliar with managing finances
  • Cognitively impaired with diminished ability to make financial decisions or detect fraud or scams

Examples of financial exploitation:

  • Exploitation by an agent under a power of attorney or person in another type of fiduciary relationship. A fiduciary is someone named to manage money of property for someone else. Fiduciaries must act in the other person’s best interest and follow four basic duties according to the CFPB:
  1. Act only in the older person’s best interest
  2. Manage the older person’s money and property carefully
  3. Keep the older person’s money and property separate from theirs
  4. Keep good records
  • Theft of money or property by a family member or caregiver
  •  Invest fraud and scams, including deceptive “free-lunch seminars” selling unnecessary or fraudulent financial services and products
  • Scams including lottery, sweepstakes, grandparent/imposter, charity, tax and debt collection, telemarketers, mail offers or door-to-door salespeople, Internet/phishing and home improvement
  • Reverse mortgage fraud or home improvement fraud

Tips on preventing elder financial exploitation

Resources for older individuals and their families