How to Spot & Prevent Elder Financial Abuse

Posted by Busey Bank on Jun 3, 2024 10:00:00 AM
Busey Bank

June is Elder Abuse Awareness Month, a time dedicated to shedding light on the various forms of abuse, neglect and exploitation that affect older adults—including financial exploitation. Whether you’re a senior managing your own finances or you want to look out for your loved ones, understanding how to spot and prevent elder financial abuse is crucial for achieving security and peace of mind.

A mature man and woman sit at a table with a laptop open as they look at a piece of paper.

Understanding Elder Financial Abuse

Elder financial abuse occurs when someone takes advantage of an older adult's financial resources for their own gain. Perpetrators can include family members, caregivers, financial advisors or even strangers. This type of abuse can take many forms, including:

  • Unauthorized withdrawals or transfers. The unauthorized use of an elder's funds through ATM withdrawals, checks or electronic transfers without their consent.
  • Coercion or manipulation. Persuading or pressuring an older adult to make financial decisions against their best interests, such as changing their will or granting power of attorney.
  • Identity theft. Stealing personal information to access bank accounts, credit cards or other financial assets.
  • Fraudulent schemes. Scams targeting seniors, such as fake lottery winnings, reverse mortgage schemes, investment schemes or charity scams.

Recognizing the Signs

Spotting elder financial abuse requires vigilance and attention to detail. Here are some common warning signs to watch for:

  • Unexplained changes in financial status. Sudden or unexplained depletion of savings, assets or valuables without a plausible explanation.
  • Unusual banking activity. Keep an eye out for large or frequent withdrawals from bank accounts, especially if they seem unusual or out of character.
  • Changes in financial habits. Noticeable changes in spending patterns, sudden reluctance to discuss financial matters or unexplained changes in beneficiaries or account ownership.
  • Isolation or secrecy. Perpetrators often isolate the elder from family members or friends, making it easier to exert control over their finances.
  • Unpaid bills or overdue notices. Be alert to unpaid bills or notices of overdue payments, which could indicate that someone is diverting funds for their own use.
  • Signs of confusion or distress. If an elder appears confused or distressed about their financial situation, it could be a red flag that something is amiss.

Preventing Elder Financial Abuse

Prevention is key to combating elder financial abuse. Here are some proactive steps individuals and families can take to protect against exploitation:

  • Stay informed. Educate yourself and your loved ones about the warning signs of elder financial abuse and the tactics used by perpetrators.
  • Maintain open communication. Encourage open and honest conversations about financial matters and ensure that older adults feel comfortable discussing their finances with trusted family members or advisors.
  • Establish safeguards. Set up safeguards such as automatic alerts for large withdrawals or unusual account activity and consider appointing a trusted family member or friend to monitor financial transactions.
  • Monitor accounts regularly. Regularly review bank statements, credit reports and financial transactions for any suspicious activity or discrepancies.
  • Know your rights. Familiarize yourself with rights regarding financial matters, including the ability to refuse or revoke any agreements or transactions that were not authorized by the account holder.
  • Be cautious with personal information. Avoid sharing sensitive information such as Social Security numbers, banking details or passwords with unfamiliar individuals over the phone or internet.
  • Create a power of attorney. Establishing a durable power of attorney can help seniors ensure that someone they know and trust can make financial decisions on their behalf if they become unable to do so.
  • Be cautious online. Be careful when sharing personal or financial information online and be wary of unsolicited emails or phone calls requesting sensitive information.
  • Seek advice from professionals. Consult with a trusted financial advisor or attorney to review financial documents and ensure that appropriate safeguards are in place.

Action Steps

If you suspect that you or someone you know is a victim of elder financial abuse, it's crucial to take action promptly:

  • Document concerns. Keep detailed records of any suspicious activity, conversations or changes in financial status, including dates, amounts and individuals involved.
  • Seek support. Reach out to trusted friends, family members or professionals for support and guidance on how to address the situation effectively.
  • Report the abuse. Contact your local Adult Protective Services agency, law enforcement or the National Elder Fraud Hotline to report suspected cases of elder financial abuse and seek assistance.
  • Protect Finances. Take steps to protect assets and financial accounts, such as freezing credit reports, changing passwords or updating legal documents if necessary.


Elder financial abuse is a serious and widespread problem that requires a collective effort to prevent. By staying informed, maintaining open communication and taking proactive steps to safeguard the financial well-being of older adults, we can work together to protect our community's most vulnerable members. If you suspect elder financial abuse, whether it’s with your own finances or those of a loved one, don't hesitate to speak up and take action. Your initiative could make all the difference in preventing undue financial harm.

If you believe you’ve been the victim of fraud or a scam on a Busey account, contact our Customer Care team, reach out to your Relationship Manager or visit your local Service Center to place a fraud alert on your account. You can also read our Fraud Prevention FAQs for more information.

Topics: Personal, Fraud

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