Why Seniors Are Often the Target of Financial Exploitation – And What to Do About It!

The Adult Protective Service (APS) programs report that the number and complexity of reports involving financial abuse of vulnerable and older adults has grown significantly over the past decade.  As the older adult population in the U.S. continues to expand in both numbers and diversity, so will the opportunities for unscrupulous individuals to take advantage of the wealth that many older adults have accumulated through their lifetime.

Elder Abuse

Seniors are victims of financial abuse because they are most likely to have significant savings, own their homes, and have excellent credit, all of which make the senior an attractive target for criminals. In addition, seniors are often unaware of the value of their assets.

Another reason seniors are often the victim of financial exploitation is because senior citizens tend to be more vulnerable.  Perhaps they are isolated and lonely, they do not have family members or other individuals who can help look out for them, or they have become confused and forgetful about things like money.  There are a few possible scenarios by which one can become a victim:

  • – The elderly person is physically, and perhaps psychologically, dependent on the primary caregiver, who isolates the older person and handles their assets.
  • – Older individuals who are losing their ability to handle their financial affairs due to physical or cognitive impairments can come to depend on someone else – a new best friend or sweetheart. This person gradually assumes responsibility for handling the older person’s financial affairs and subsequently engages in financial abuse.
  • – A widow or widower has lost the spouse who handled the couple’s financial affairs, and the surviving spouse does not know how to do so. Typically, elders in this situation are relieved when someone offers assistance with their finances and are unaware that they are subsequently being exploited.
  • – The older person adamantly refuses help and financial advice from reliable, responsible individuals who may or may not be relatives, and ends up placing control of his or her assets in the hands of a stranger.  This is often done as the senior does not want to be a burden to his or her friends or family.


There are a few things that can be done to prevent yourself, or a senior in your life, from becoming a victim:

  •  – 90% of financial abusers are family members or trusted friends of the senior.  It is a good idea to have multiple individuals listed on accounts. By listing more than one individual on the account, the account records are accessible to more than person, meaning additional eyes are overseeing accounts.
  •  – Plan ahead. The more you plan for your future, the more control you will have later. Prepaying funeral arrangements and other services that you may need in the future is one good example of good planning.
  •  – Document all your financial arrangements. Putting things in writing can prevent future misunderstandings and legal problems.
  •  – Stay on top of your finances:
    • . Keep blank checks in a safe place.
    • . Never sign the back of a check unless you are in a bank to cash it.
    • . Never lend your ID, credit card, ATM card or checks to anyone.
    • . Check your bank statements carefully to make sure all of the charges are for items you purchased or paid for.
    • . Use direct deposit for all regular checks such as Social Security.
    • . If you don’t use your ATM card, cancel it now.
  •  – Be cautious about signing documents.  Never sign anything you don’t understand and don’t let anyone pressure you into signing until you are ready.
  •  – Pay with a check or credit card – not cash – and always get a receipt.
  •  – Guard personal information:
    • . Do not give out Social Security Numbers, ATM cards or PIN numbers to strangers or anyone who does not need them.
    • . Do not give out credit card information, your social security number or account numbers over the phone unless you initiated the call to a well-known, reputable company.
  •  – ASK FOR HELP:. Financial matters can be confusing. Many social service agencies have people who can help. If you are being threatened or abused, you need to ask for help immediately. Bank personnel, law enforcement and social services agencies can help.


While people often dream of retirement and enjoying their golden years, many elderly citizens are living the nightmare of being a victim of financial and exploitation crimes.  Be aware of what makes a senior vulnerable to these financial crimes and know how to prevent it.

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Posted in Aging Parents, Elder Abuse, Safety Tips, Senior Citizen, Senior Citizen Abuse

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