Engage Magazine General Interest Winter 2021

Detecting and Preventing Financial Exploitation of the Elderly


Stories about the financial exploitation of elders that make news are ones where the victim has name recognition. Recently we’ve heard much about Marvel icon Stan Lee becoming the target of financial predators. No less tragic are the abuses that occur to those with less notoriety and wealth. Elder financial abuse is a type of elder abuse in which misappropriation of financial resources or abusive use of financial control, in the context of a relationship where there is an expectation of trust, causes harm to an older person. Reports involving financial abuse of vulnerable and older adults have grown significantly over the past decade. Recent research has found that elder financial exploitation is widespread, expensive, and vastly under-reported.

Fraud happens in a multitude of ways and across all kinds of communities. When looking at statistics, a Bureau of Justice study found that fraud occurred from the misuse of credit cards, bank accounts, newly opened accounts, misuse of personal identification, phone, email and online scams, and mixtures of all of the above. It is vitally important for family members and friends to help with prevention efforts. Senior housing facilities, their residents, and caregivers also have a role to play, as they are uniquely poised to observe changes in behavior that may indicate that someone is being exploited. It helps to be aware of the warning signs. If bills are piling up, or if a senior seems upset by unusual charges on credit card statements, or if a change in the physical or mental health of an older adult you know occurs, look into it. Changes in a personality, and visits with new friends that don’t seem to have the senior’s best interest in mind can also be warning signs. Missing valuables are also an indicator. Be wary when a family member or friend blocks others access to a loved one — or if they will not let the older adult speak up for themselves. Calls from debt collectors are also a warning sign that someone could have opened accounts in a senior’s name.  

The Senior Housing Crime Prevention Foundation has a proven program that educates and safeguards against theft, abuse and neglect. It serves residents, staff, management, family and visitors in nursing homes, assisted living communities, independent living communities, HUD communities and veteran’s homes. The program can be funded completely by the banking industry, for qualified facilities, through the Senior Housing Crime Prevention Foundation’s CRA Partners program.

To learn more about implementing the Senior Crimestoppers program, visit, call 800-529-9096, or email