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Elder financial abuse

When you think about financial abuse of the elderly, you might be worried about scammers calling your loved one to convince them to sign up for predatory loans or send money to a grandchild who’s lost their wallet in a foreign country. While these types of scams do happen, about 75% of financial exploitation is carried out by people close to the victim—a family member or friend, and it’s estimated that only 1 in 44 instances of financial abuse are actually reported.* It’s important to know how to spot and report potential fraud so you can help protect your elderly loved ones from these types of situations. 

How to spot potential elder financial abuse

Your loved one might have a hard time admitting that they were taken advantage of. If someone you love is being financially abused, it can be an embarrassing situation for them, and it might be hard for them to ask for help.   
This might be a difficult topic for you to bring up with an aging parent—start the conversation gently. Begin by asking if they’ve noticed more telemarketing calls or requests from charity.  
To help protect them from financial abuse, here are some key points you should address to make sure you’re aware of your elderly loved one’s financial situation: 
  • Who manages their money on a day-to-day basis? 
  • How’re these relationships going? 
  • Are there new or unusual credit card charges or cash withdrawals? 
  • Is anyone else authorized on their bank or investment accounts? 
  • Have they recently run out of money at the end of the month? 
  • Have they mentioned regretting or worrying about any financial decisions they’ve made recently? 
  • Does anyone else have access to their home where sensitive documents and passwords might be kept? 
  • Has anyone recently asked them to change their will or power of attorney in that person’s favor? 
Fraudsters usually start small. To help prevent and minimize the potential for financial fraud, you and your family should work together to increase transparency and awareness. If one sibling is managing your loved one's day-to-day finances, it might be a good idea to have another sibling receive account statements to monitor cash flow. Similarly, if you or another family member gets paid for caregiving services—which is completely normal—you should make a plan for the payment upfront and be transparent about the details with the rest of the family to minimize possible concerns. 

How to report elder financial abuse

Don't be afraid to report potential fraud or other abuse of your loved one. You don't need to have conclusive evidence. If you think your loved one has been subject to abuse, contact the Adult Protective Services program in your area. The professionals you reach out to will be responsible for investigating your concerns. If your concerns are life-threatening, call 911.

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*Nursing Home Abuse Justice Team, “Financial Elder Abuse,” Nursing Home Abuse Justice, June 24, 2021,

This information is general in nature and provided for educational purposes only.

Fidelity does not provide legal or tax advice. The information herein is general in nature and should not be considered legal or tax advice. Consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific situation.