Elder Financial Abuse: Protect Yourself and Those You Love

Elder financial abuse is the most common form of elder abuse. It is defined as the unlawful or unauthorized use of an elderly person’s financial assets. It is also the act of pressuring an elder to authorize consent or use of their financial assets.

In this blog post, you will learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones from elder financial abuse. This post describes how to recognize the warning signs of elder financial abuse; how to reject elder financial abuse and prevent it from happening; and how to report it if it does happen.

How to Recognize Elder Financial Abuse

Personal relationships are often at the core of elder financial abuse. Fraudsters can leverage personal relationships to perpetrate investment fraud. To gain the trust of an older adult, a fraudster will often offer help or become a close friend. Learn more about the ‘trust trap’ and other investment fraud warning signs here.

Other common examples of elder financial abuse include:

  • Theft of money, credit cards, bank cards, and/or possessions.
  • Someone attempting to take over an older person’s financial affairs, including their investment portfolio.
  • Someone threatening or pressuring an older person to give money.
  • Someone attempting or actually persuading, tricking, or threatening the older person to make changes to their will and/or power of attorney.
  • Misuse of a power of attorney by doing things that are not in the best interests of the older person.

Common Elder Financial Abuse Perpetrators

It’s important to know that elder financial abuse is most commonly inflicted by people closest to older adults, including family members, caregivers, and friends.

Strangers outside of an older person’s inner circle will also work to defraud them of savings such as investments, property, and pensions. These fraudsters initially offer help, financial advice, or friendship to build trust that they can leverage to access the older person’s finances.

Common Warning Signs of Elder Financial Abuse

The challenge with elder financial abuse, and why it’s commonly unreported, is that it’s difficult to recognize. In many cases, elder financial abuse is not realized until a large portion of an older person’s savings has gone missing.

The following are some common warning signs, also known as the red flags, of elder financial abuse:

  • Unusual financial transactions, such as bank withdrawals or the liquidation of investments.
  • Sudden inability to pay bills.
  • They are no longer buying things they need, like clothes, groceries, or medications.
  • They assume financial responsibility for a family member.
  • Unusual fear of or sudden change in feelings about a particular person or people.

Learn to Reject Elder Financial Abuse

When elderly people are isolated, they are more vulnerable to becoming targets of financial abuse. Isolated older people are particularly vulnerable because fraudsters will discourage them to report abuse or suspicious investments.

If you feel isolated, you’re not alone. There are many people who can help you protect yourself from elder financial abuse.

How to Prevent Elder Financial Abuse

Build your understanding of elder financial abuse and learn to reject and prevent it from happening to you and/or someone you know by:

  • Staying informed and talking about financial matters with people or professionals you trust.
  • Understanding how fraudsters target seniors and community organizations.
  • Investigating an investment opportunity or sales pitch, as well as the person promoting it, before handing over your money; or consider seeking independent, third party advice if you are unsure of an investment offer.
  • Understanding affinity fraud and learning the affinity fraud warning signs.
  • Keeping track of your finances by reviewing your bank and investment statements regularly.
  • Discussing future plans with your lawyer and making arrangements in case something happens to you and you are not able to communicate your wishes. This can be done by drafting a will, healthcare directive, and/or power of attorney.
  • Getting help if someone pressures you to invest or asks to access your investment or bank accounts.
  • Asking someone you trust for help if you feel a family member, friend, or care worker is pressuring you for money or seeking access to your finances.

How to Report Elder Financial Abuse

Abusive relationships rarely end on their own and they become worse over time. If you think you or someone you are close with are being taken advantage of financially, ask for help.

If you feel that you are being subjected to elder abuse, talk to someone you trust, such as a friend, family member, police officer, lawyer, or staff member at your financial institution.

Where you can Report Elder Financial Abuse in British Columbia

If you suspect investment fraud, contact the BC Securities Commission (BCSC).

If you suspect other forms of financial abuse, go to the following resources for help:

  • Seniors Abuse Information Line (SAIL) from Seniors First BC is a resource for older adults to receive general information about elder abuse. It is also a safe contact to discuss possible abuse or mistreatment. BC residents can contact SAIL at 604-437-1940 or 1-866-437-1940 (toll free).
  • Government of BC – For protection from elder abuse or neglect, visit www.gov.bc.ca/elderabuse.
  • Public Guardian and Trustee at 604-660-4444, or visit http://www.trustee.bc.ca/Pages/default.aspx.
  • Legal Services Society at 604-408-2172 or toll-free at 1-866-577-2525, or visit https://lss.bc.ca/.
  • Contact the RCMP or local police if you feel the abuse is a criminal matter. You can also call VictimLink BC at 1-800-563-0808 to receive information and referral services if you are a victim of a crime.

For more information on how you can recognize, reject, and report elder financial abuse, visit this webpage.

Report a Concern

If you have any concerns about a person or company offering an investment opportunity, please contact BCSC Inquiries at 604-899-6854 or 1-800-373-6393 or through e-mail at [email protected]. You can also file a complaint or submit a tip anonymously using the BCSC’s online complaint form.

InvestRight.org is the British Columbia Securities Commission’s investor education website. Subscribe to receive email updates from BCSC InvestRight.

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Learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones from elder financial abuse.