It takes courage to speak up about elder financial abuse. It’s not always easy to recognize, and people subjected to abuse are often fearful, humiliated, or ashamed. These factors can make elder financial abuse difficult to talk about.
Below we go through some ways you can begin to talk about elder financial abuse. Whether you suspect someone you know is experiencing financial abuse, or you are experiencing it yourself, these tips can help you get the conversation started so you can find the support you need.
Elder Financial Abuse Defined
Elder financial abuse is defined as the unlawful or unauthorized use of an older person’s finances. It is also the act of pressuring an older person to authorize consent or use of their financial assets.
It’s the most common form of elder abuse, and there are common warning signs to look out for. Unfortunately, it can still go unreported. In many cases, elder financial abuse may go on until a large portion of an older person’s savings are gone. That’s why it’s important to have conversations with your loved ones about financial abuse, so that together you can recognize, reject, and report it.
How to Support Someone Who May Be a Victim of Elder Financial Abuse
Conversations can be a powerful vehicle for change. If you think an older adult in your life may be experiencing financial abuse, it’s time to start talking about it.
What to Do If You Suspect Someone is Experiencing Elder Financial Abuse
Elder financial abuse can be a sensitive topic to approach. Sometimes, it’s inflicted on older adults by the people closest to them, including family members, caregivers, or friends.
When you suspect abuse and want to offer support, ask questions that prompt conversation and help identify the abuse. For example, you could ask:
- Have you been offered an investment that offers high returns, with little or no risk?
- Have you ever felt pressured to purchase an investment or lend money?
- Have you been forced to share your personal banking information?
- Have you been pressured into changing your will, or power of attorney?
Remember to be sensitive while asking questions, and to be aware that they may not be willing to open up about these topics, especially if the situation involves family.
It’s important that your conversation doesn’t just stop there. An older adult may need your help to report financial abuse to the relevant authorities, or they may need help finding confidential resources, like an elder abuse hotline.
What to Do If Someone Has Reached Out to You for Support
Reaching out about abuse can be emotional and can make a person feel fearful. As their supporter or advocate, you can take steps to help them feel more at ease and safe talking about elder financial abuse.
- Find a safe space to talk. Whether it’s in person or on the phone, ensure that the older adult feels comfortable sharing a deeply personal experience. That could mean ensuring the environment is quiet and private, and that you will keep the conversation confidential.
- Ask how the situation makes them feel. Understanding the emotions that come up for an older adult experiencing financial abuse can help you establish a more trusting relationship. This is especially important if the person is experiencing financial abuse at the hands of someone they trust.
- Ask what kind of support they need from you. The person may not be ready or willing to report financial abuse right away. They may not even know that they are being abused. Listen and ask about what they need in order to identify the right support and resources for them.
- Work together to report it. Reporting financial abuse is important to help prevent it. If an older adult has been victimized by investment fraud, the BC Securities Commission (BCSC) may investigate. If it doesn’t involve an investment, you can refer to the BC Government’s online resource for information on how to proceed.
- Spend time together learning about investment fraud. Investment fraud can have devastating impacts on a person’s finances. Learn more about the investment fraud warning signs, and how to the spot common investment scams by visiting our Fraud Awareness section.
How to Tell Someone You’re Experiencing Financial Abuse
If you’re an older person experiencing financial abuse, it’s important to find support and report it. Starting a conversation about abuse is often unfamiliar and takes courage. These conversation points can help you:
- Start with, “I have a serious problem that has been happening for….”
- Describe what’s been happening
- Describe how the abuse has made you feel
- Talk about what types of support you need
- Determine where to get help
To help, the Government of BC has an online resource that provides tips to help you talk about elder abuse.
Where to Report Elder Financial Abuse in BC
If you suspect that someone may be a victim of investment fraud, report it to the BCSC. You can report a suspicious investment or a concern by filling out our online complaint form, emailing us, or you can call the BCSC Inquiries at 604-899-6854 or 1-800-373-6393 (toll-free).
If you need to report other forms of financial abuse, the following resources are available for British Columbians. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 9-1-1 or the emergency number in your community.
Seniors Abuse and Information Line (SAIL)
Call 604-437-1940 or 1-866-437-1940 (toll free)
SAIL is a province-wide, confidential service provided by Seniors First BC. You can speak to a trained professional about abuse or mistreatment, and receive information and support regarding elder abuse.
Government of BC
The Government of BC has a webpage on elder abuse and where to get help. It also contains other resources, brochures, and fact sheets to provide information for protection from elder abuse or neglect.
The Public Guardian and Trustee (PGT)
The PGT protects the interest of British Columbians who do not have the legal capacity to protect their own interests, for contact information, click here.
Office of the Seniors Advocate (OSA)
Call 250-952-3181 or 1-877-952-3181 (toll free)
The OSA monitors seniors’ services and issues in BC, and makes recommendations to government and service providers in BC to address systemic issues.
Information and referral specialists at the OSA can help you find seniors programs and services.
Canadian Centre for Elder Law
- Helping Someone With Investment Decisions – A Resource for Family and Friends
- Making Investment Decisions With Support – A Resource for People Living With Dementia
Government of Canada
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 BCSC’s investor education website. Subscribe to receive email updates from BCSC InvestRight.