Financial abuse of the elderly is growing exponentially in the United States. The Weinberg Center for Elder Justice says thieves steal $2.9 billion from older adults each year, and victims are not limited by gender, ethnicity or net worth.

Between 1 and 2 million Americans have been mistreated, exploited, or injured by someone close who they depend upon for care or protection. Furthermore, for every case of elder financial abuse reported, 23 others go unreported, according to the Center.

Who is most likely to commit financial elder abuse?

Like many people who take advantage of others, abusers are often close to their victims and use that relationship to gain access to their assets. These include:

  • Family members
  • Caregivers
  • Neighbors
  • Professionals
  • Scammers

What are the signs?

Recognizing the abuse of an older loved one can be tricky unless you understand the signs. This can be even more difficult if you are close to the abuser. Signs of financial abuse include:

  • Money missing from accounts
  • Credit card use becomes more frequent
  • Stacks of unpaid bills, collection letters and lack of food in the house
  • Possessions start disappearing
  • The older person’s demeanor suddenly changes

How can you help if you suspect abuse is happening?

If you suspect that an older adult is the victim of abuse, there are several ways you can take action, including:

  • Call 911 if you suspect they are in physical danger of abuse or medical neglect
  • Call Oregon’s Adult Protective Services at 1-855-503-SAFE (7233)
  • If you suspect they are a victim of identity theft, file an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
  • Contact their financial institutions and express your concerns

Take preventive steps to protect an elderly loved one from abuse

Putting financial safeguards in place is crucial to address the needs of elderly family members who are vulnerable to financial abuse. An experienced estate planning and litigation attorney here in Oregon can address those needs.

Your lawyer can help you create a living trust and appoint responsible family members for vital roles, such as a power of attorney and health care proxy for a loved one who can no longer make financial and medical decisions for themselves.