Elder Abuse Awareness Month - Stone Bank
Elder Abuse Awareness Month

Elder Abuse Awareness Month

Goal: To promote the well-being of seniors in our communities, we are sharing signs of financial exploitation and how to protect yourself and your loved ones.

View the Stone Bank Senior Security Kit with tips and resources for customers, families, and financial caregivers by clicking here.

There are four steps to help protect your loved ones from financial abuse:

  • Prevent
  • Recognize
  • Record
  • Report

Financial abuse can be harder to spot than the other types of elder abuse as it may not physically affect the victim, but the long-term consequences can be devastating. Older Americans may lose their entire life savings and no longer be able to afford rent, nursing home care, or basic living expenses. In some cases, elders have become depressed or anxious after suffering from financial exploitation.

Financial institutions reported roughly $27 billion in suspicious activity related to elder financial exploitation during a one-year period from 2022 to 2023, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network said in a new financial trend analysis based on Bank Secrecy Act reports.

Examples include:

  • Misusing or stealing an older person’s money or possessions
  • Coercing or deceiving an older person into signing any document such as a contract or will
  • Improper use of conservatorship, guardianship, or power of attorney

Seniors: What should you do to protect yourself?

  • Plan ahead to protect your assets and to ensure your wishes are followed. Consider a financial caregiver.
  • Shred receipts, bank statements and unused credit card offers before throwing them away.
  • Lock up your checkbook, account statements and other sensitive information when others will be in your home.
  • Regularly review your credit report. Never give personal information, including Social Security Number, account number or other financial information to anyone over the phone unless you initiated the call and trust the other party.
  • Never pay a fee or taxes to collect sweepstakes or lottery “winnings.”
  • Never rush into a financial decision. Ask for details in writing and get a second opinion.
  • Consult with a financial advisor or attorney before signing any document you don’t understand.
  • Get to know your banker and build a relationship with the people who handle your finances. They can look out for any suspicious activity related to your account.
  • Check references and credentials before hiring anyone. Don’t allow workers to have access to information about your finances.
  • Pay with credit cards instead of cash to keep a paper trail.

What should you do if you are a victim of financial exploitation?

  • Talk to a trusted family member or friend.
  • Tell your bank.
  • Report it to your local police.
  • File a report with the FBI at IC3.Gov.

Family and Friends: What are the warning signs of elder financial exploitation?

  • Look for changes in patterns of behavior. Watch out for these “red flags”:
  • Unusual activity in an older person’s bank accounts, including large, frequent or unexplained withdrawals.
  • ATM withdrawals by an older person who has never used a debit or ATM card.
  • Changing from a basic account to one that offers more complicated services the customer does not fully understand or need.
  • Withdrawals from bank accounts or transfers between accounts the customer cannot explain.
  • New “best friends” accompanying an older person to the bank.
  • Sudden non-sufficient fund activity or unpaid bills.
  • Closing CDs or accounts without regard to penalties.
  • Uncharacteristic attempts to wire large sums of money.
  • Suspicious signatures on checks, or outright forgery.
  • Confusion, fear or lack of awareness on the part of an older customer.
  • Refusal to make eye contact, shame or reluctance to talk about the problem.
  • Checks written as “loans” or “gifts.”
  • Bank statements that no longer go to the customer’s home.
  • New powers of attorney the older person does not understand.
  • A caretaker, relative or friend who suddenly begins conducting financial transactions on behalf of an older person without proper documentation.
  • Altered wills and trusts.
  • Loss of property.

What should you do if you suspect elder financial exploitation?

  • Talk to your older loved ones. Try to determine what specifically is happening with their financial situation.
  • Report elder financial exploitation to their bank.
  • Reach out to the police and file a report with the FBI at IC3.Gov.

Tips for Financial Caregivers

Financial caregivers play an important role in ensuring that their loved ones’ finances are managed wisely to maintain the best quality of life possible. Below are some best practices for financial caregivers.

  • Create a financial inventory. Work with your loved one to gather and organize the financial records, expenses, and other critical information you’ll need to help manage your loved one’s finances. Access our checklist for recommendations on what to review.
  • Manage money and other assets wisely. Older adults are often on fixed incomes or have limited finances, so it’s essential to help them eliminate unnecessary costs and budget wisely.
  • Do not co-mingle assets. Keep your finances separate from those of your loved one and act in your loved one’s best interests. Exploiting an older adult is a crime and carries legal penalties.
  • Keep careful records. When acting as a financial agent, proper documentation is required. Keep well-organized financial records, including up-to-date lists of assets, debts, and an accounting of financial transactions.
  • Communicate regularly. Caregiving is often an evolving relationship, with needs changing and new issues arising. Understand your loved one’s wishes by keeping in touch regularly.
  • Formalize the relationship. Without the proper legal authority, caregivers may be limited in the ways in they can help. Consider talking to your loved one about different options, such as a Power of Attorney, a Social Security Administration representative payee, or trustee.
  • Seek professional advice. Consult bankers, accountants, lawyers, and other professionals when you need help.
  • Don’t burn yourself out. Care for yourself while you care for others. Search for support groups and reach out to other family and friends for help.

National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA)
American Bankers Association
ABA Banking Journal
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
SEC: Guide for Seniors