Information from the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions

Guide to Preventing Elder Financial Abuse

Elder financial abuse is a significant problem and is expected to become worse with the aging of America.

The Washington State Department of Financial Institutions wants you to learn about elder financial fraud so you can help your loved ones guard against it. 

Common Types of Elder Financial Fraud

Common types of fraud committed on the elderly include:

  • Theft of Cash 
    Cash is stolen from the elderly or money is withdrawn from the victim's bank account without authorization.
  • Cashing Checks Without Authorization
    Stealing and cashing the victim’s checks without authorization
  • Credit Card Theft
    Making purchases on the elderly's credit card.
  • Transferring Property Deeds
    Convincing the elderly to transfer property deeds without the knowledge of other family members.
  • Misuse Of Power of Attorney
    An individual may misuse power of attorney for financial gain.
  • Investment Scams
    Con-artists might persuade the elderly into high-risk investments or business deals
  • Identity Theft
    Abusers may use the victim’s credit history to take out loans or obtain credit cards.

Who Commits Elder Financial Abuse?

Elder financial abuse is frequently carried out by someone close to the victim.

  • Family members, friends, and acquaintances
    Many of those who commit financial elder abuse are close family members or friends.
  • Caretakers
    A caretaker may steal or persuade a client to give him or her money. 
  • Neighbors
    Neighbors may take advantage of the elderly, especially if they know they are in cognitive decline.
  • Professionals
    Unscrupulous lawyers, financial advisors, and other professionals may find ways to take advantage of the elderly. Watch for deceptive billing or questionable transfers of money.

What Should You Do If You Suspect Fraud?

  1. Contact Washington Adult Protective Services in your town or state for help. 1-866-363-4276
  2. Report all instances of elder financial abuse to your local police if fraud is involved, they should investigate.
  3. If you suspect investment fraud, contact the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions at 1-877-746-4334.

Warning Signs of Elder Financial Abuse

There are many warning signs of elder financial abuse. These are some of the most common you should beware of.

  • Unusual activity in a 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.
  • Large withdrawals from a previously inactive account.
  • New joint account suddenly opened up.
  • Sudden appearance of credit card balances.
  • New “best friends” wanting to accompany an older person to the bank.
  • Sudden non-sufficient fund activity.
  • Closing CDs or other savings accounts without regard to penalties.
  • Uncharacteristic attempts to wire large sums of money.
  • Suspicious signatures on checks, or outright forgery.
  • Checks written as “loans” or “gifts” to someone the family doesn’t know.
  • Bank and credit card statements that no longer go to the customer’s home.
  • New credit cards showing up in your loved ones name.
  • A caretaker, relative or friend who suddenly begins conducting financial transactions on behalf of an older person without proper documentation.

Resources for Family Members, Caregivers

Resources for Medical Professionals

Additional Resources

Elder Investment Fraud and Financial Exploitation Prevent Program
State securities regulators have joined forces to educate medical professionals and other caregivers about how to identify seniors who may be vulnerable to financial abuse.
Elder Investment Fraud and Financial Exploitation Prevention Program

Serve Our Seniors
Program from the North American Securities Administrators Association.

Adult Protective Services
Adult Protective Services receives and investigates reports of allegations of abuse, abandonment, neglect, self-neglect and financial exploitation of vulnerable adults living in the community and in facilities.
Adult Protective Services Website

Legal Services for the Elderly
Provides legal services to low income elderly population.

Local Area Agency on Aging
Provides answers on aging and access to resources that help older and disabled adults live well in their homes and communities.