Elder Financial Abuse
Financial abuse is the most common form of elder abuse. It is important for everyone to know how to identify, prevent, avoid, and report elder financial abuse.
Elder Financial Abuse Defined
Elder financial abuse is 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 the investment world, elder financial abuse generally occurs through cold calling, affinity fraud, fraud between families and friends, or high-pressure sales tactics. People are approached by fraudsters through personal visits, email solicitation, door-to-door sales, at sales seminars, or through telemarketing.
Warning Sign – The Trust Trap
To gain the trust of an older adult, a fraudster will often offer help or become a close friend. Older adults are also financially abused or pressured to invest by family members looking for financial help or money they feel entitled to.
Fraudsters target older adults because they often have savings: investments, property, pensions, etc. Fraudsters know that older adults may be attracted to high-return, low-risk investment offers, because older adults are often looking to maximize their investments for retirement, or they want to leave money for their children and grandchildren.
You can make a difference by building your understanding of elder financial abuse by:
- Learning to recognize, reject, and report investment scams.
- Understanding how fraudsters target seniors and community organizations.
- Understanding affinity fraud and learning the affinity fraud warning signs.
- Subscribing to our fraud email course.
- Learning to identify and avoid investment schemes with BCSC InvestRight’s Seniors and Adults Over 50: Check Before You Invest guide.
Prevent Financial Abuse
As members in local communities, we should all be aware of people in our networks who may be susceptible.
When older adults are isolated they are more vulnerable to becoming targets for financial abuse. Isolated older people are particularly vulnerable because fraudsters will discourage them to report abuse or suspect investments.
While anyone can be a victim of investment fraud or an unsuitable investment, older adults have less time to recover from a financial loss. A financial loss can affect an older adult’s health or cause a person to withdrawal from friends and family, isolating themselves from important people in their network.
If you personally feel isolated, know that you’re not alone. There are many people who can help you protect your finances. You can take control and access support.
Take these steps to help prevent elder financial abuse:
- Stay informed and talk about financial matters with your friends and relatives.
- Investigate an investment opportunity or sales pitch, as well as the person promoting it before handing over your money.
- Consider seeking independent, third party advice if you are unsure of an investment offer.
- Get help if someone pressures you to invest or asks to access your investment or bank accounts.
Who to Contact if You Suspect Elder Financial Abuse
If you suspect questionable investment activity, contact the BCSC.
Telephone: 604-899-6854 or 1-800-373-6393 (toll free across Canada)
Email: [email protected]
If you suspect other forms of financial abuse, there are resources that you can look to for help.
- SAIL (Seniors Abuse Information Line)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).
- 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.