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Warning Signs of Elder Financial Abuse
July 27, 2021
Signs of financial abuse we should all know about

Financial abuse of the elderly and vulnerable is on the rise, and anyone can be at risk, but age, disability, cognitive impairment and poor mental health may make a person more vulnerable.

Many elders are living alone or in social isolation, they are often highly dependent on a caregiver or family member. Social isolation increases the risk of elder financial abuse because there are fewer family members around to detect suspected abuse or deterioration of an older person’s ability to protect himself or herself.

What is financial abuse?

Financial abuse of the elderly can include having money or property stolen, being defrauded, being put under pressure in relation to money or other property or having money or property misused. 

It can be as simple as a carer, relative or neighbour stealing from an elderly person by adding items for themselves when doing their shopping for them, or, in more serious cases, people can be tricked into losing their entire life savings or pressured into changing their will or selling their home. 

The pandemic, financial pressures and social isolation have created a ‘perfect storm’ – with older people now even more dependent on carers, family and friends and at greater risk of financial abuse from loved ones, rogue traders and professional scammers. 

Key Stats from our ‘In Safe Hands’ report

  • The most common type of financial abuse was falling victim to professional scammers – 68% of people that had been victim to financial abuse said they had been scammed in this way
  • Other victims had been mis-sold goods, services or investments (34%), trusted someone who failed to act in their best interests (23%) or had a family member steal from them (13%) 
  • 39% admitted they have been forced to rely on someone else to look after their finances for things such as shopping during the pandemic 
  • Almost two-thirds (63%) of those surveyed said they were worried about falling victim to financial abuse
  • Twice as many of those aged 70+ (70%) said they were worried about becoming a target for thefts, scams or frauds, with 35% concerned about their future health and a third fearing the loss of their independence

These report findings are hugely alarming, and it’s no wonder that nearly a quarter (24%) of this age group worry their parents will be taken advantage of. 

Fortunately, there are some warning signs that may alert you to financial abuse:

  • Signatures on cheques and documents that do not resemble the older person’s signature, or signed when the older person cannot write
  • Sudden changes in bank accounts, including unexplained withdrawals of large sums of money by a person accompanying the older person
  • The inclusion of additional names on an older person’s bank account
  • Abrupt changes to or the sudden establishment of wills
  • The sudden appearance of previously absent relatives claiming their rights to an older person’s affairs or possessions
  • Someone moving into an older person’s house and living rent free, without agreement or under duress 
  • The unexplained sudden transfer of assets to a family member or someone outside the family
  • Misuse of power of attorney, deputyship, appointeeship or other legal authority 
  • Numerous unpaid bills, or overdue rent, when someone else is supposed to be paying the bills
  • Lack of amenities, such as TV, personal grooming items, appropriate clothing, that the older person should be able to afford
  • The unexplained disappearance of funds or valuable possessions such as art, silverware, or jewellery
  • Deliberate isolation of an older person from friends and family, resulting in the caregiver alone having total control

If you are suffering financial abuse, or suspect someone you know might be, then please contact your local police station immediately, or contact Action Fraud, Hourglass or Think Jessica.

What steps can be taken to avoid financial abuse?

Financial abuse can still occur if there is a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) or a deputyship order in place. LPA’s remain, however, important tools in ensuring that a person’s property and finances are dealt with in accordance with their wishes if they lose the capacity to manage their own affairs. 

It is important to ensure that the elderly person does not become isolated or overly reliant on one person (who could be or become their abuser). Talking with the elderly person and educating them on risks and scams could help to avoid future abuse or help you spot existing abuse. 

Language expert, Dr Elisabeth Carter recently revealed to GuardianCard her top tips for approaching difficult topics such as financial management – read it for yourself here.

Financial abuse is happening and it’s happening now. Our mission is to create a simple and safe solution to this problem, and to help the elderly with managing their finances whilst retaining their independence. 

It’s our aim to stop this from happening, and raise awareness of the problem. Apply for your GuardianCard here today.

About the Author

Esther George