Across our nation, elder financial abuse and exploitation is a hidden crisis that robs seniors of their right to age with dignity, security, and respect. In the United States, 1 in 10 individuals over 60 has faced some form of elder abuse, with many incidents going unreported. At Bank of the Rockies, we believe that everyone, regardless of age, deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, and we want to raise awareness about this important issue. Victims of elder financial abuse often experience social isolation, financial loss, and psychological harm as a result of the actions of others. In this article, we will explore practical ways that anyone can prevent, recognize, and report elder financial abuse.

1. Understand: So You Can Report Elder Financial Abuse

Reporting elder financial abuse starts with understanding it. A simple definition is the improper use of another person’s money or property, which is often committed by a person in a position of trust. In 2021, elder abuse impacted the lives of 4,900 people in Montana alone, according to data from the Department of Public Health and Human Services. Across the U.S., the financial aspect of elder abuse exploited $3 billion from this demographic, as 1 in 10 Americans over the age of 60 were victimized.

Even as widespread as it is, there is often very limited knowledge of what is occurring. Cognitive impairments and a reluctance to believe that a trusted individual could be exploiting them are often barriers to victims reporting this behavior. That behavior may include:

  • Taking money from senior checking or savings accounts.
  • Demanding a significant amount of money for care or visits.
  • Establishing loans in the name of a senior, even though the senior will not benefit from the funds.
  • Using a senior citizen as a co-signer without that person’s knowledge of doing so.
  • Opening credit cards in a senior’s name.
  • Using Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, or pensions for purchases that do not provide for the individual’s needs

Elder financial abuse can have long-lasting effects on the financial stability and emotional well-being of older adults.

2. Recognize: Signs to Report Elder Financial Abuse

Recognition is the second step to knowing how to report elder financial abuse. Well-meaning families may be able to detect some of the signs of elder financial abuse, such as:

  • Large, unexplained withdrawals from accounts
  • Changes in banking practices or unexplained changes to wills or powers of attorney
  • Appearance of a new “best friend” who provides financial transaction help for the elderly person
  • Emotional or behavioral changes related to finances
  • Fear or sudden lack of hygiene, missing medical aids, or social withdrawal
  • Signs of neglect, including hazardous living conditions, dehydration, and a lack of food

3. How to Report Elder Financial Abuse

If you suspect and need to report elder financial abuse, contact the local authorities or adult protective services as the first, immediate step. Then, alert the impacted financial institutions where that person banks as a way to encourage them to take further action to verify transactions. Most importantly, provide support and empathy to victims as they work towards recovery.

Senior Champions to Safeguard Adults at Risk

The role of Senior Champions at Bank of the Rockies is one way we’re working to identify and support those at risk. We care deeply about protecting our elderly customers from financial exploitation. That’s why every employee is dedicated and trained to identify red flags of elder fraud, report elder financial abuse, and promote financial education programs for seniors. If you or a loved one need assistance or have questions about elder fraud prevention, call or stop by one of our local offices. We are here for you.