Don’t Be A Victim: How to Spot Elder Financial Abuse

Someone unlawfully or inappropriately utilising a senior’s (aged 60 or older) money or belongings for their own personal use is classified as an elder financial abuser.

The abuse of older people, particularly those with dementia, is described as “complex, poorly measured, and hidden” in a House of Lords report from 2021, while statistics published by the charity Hourglass (formerly Action on Elder Abuse) reveal that at least £13 million was reported stolen, defrauded, or coerced from older victims in 2020. Between 2015 and 2021, the Office of the Public Guardian looked into around 12,000 incidents of possible abuse of powers of attorney.

For a variety of reasons, elderly individuals are ideal targets for financial exploitation. A perpetrator may take advantage of the victim’s health and mental problems to obtain control of their money and utilise them to their advantage.

But even when the victims are healthy with no mental impairments, they’re still targets for financial exploitation—often from those closest to them.

Theft, fraud, and exploitation are all examples of financial abuse. Restricting access to money or goods, as well as pressuring someone concerning their will, power of attorney, property, or inheritance, are all examples of abuse.  According to Hourglass, financial abuse may be identified through the following:

  • Signatures on cheques and documents that do not resemble the older person’s signature, or signed when the older person cannot write.
  • Sudden changes in bank accounts, including unexplained withdrawals of large sums of money by a person accompanying the older person.
  • The inclusion of additional names on an older person’s bank account.
  • Abrupt changes to or the sudden establishment of wills.
  • The sudden appearance of previously absent relatives claiming their rights to an older person’s affairs or possessions.
  • Someone moving into an older person’s house and living rent-free, without agreement or under duress. 
  • The unexplained sudden transfer of assets to a family member or someone outside the family.
  • Misuse of power of attorney, deputyship or other legal authority. 
  • Numerous unpaid bills, or overdue rent, when someone else is supposed to be paying the bills.
  • Lack of amenities, such as TV, personal grooming items, and appropriate clothing, that the older person should be able to afford.
  • The unexplained disappearance of funds or valuable possessions such as art, silverware, or jewellery.
  • Deliberate isolation

Elder financial abuse is most common among adult children, but it can also occur in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, and from financial caregivers, such as a power of attorney, a trustee, guardian or conservator. 

If you suspect financial abuse of an elderly person, you should report it as soon as possible. Depending on the nature of the abuse, you could also report it to the Police, the elderly person’s GP or Adult Social Services at the local council. 

If you are not sure about what to do, you can call helplines such as Action on Elder Abuse (0808 808 8141) and Age UK (0800 678 1174).