I’ve never met anyone who was a victim of elder financial abuse.
That’s the nature of the problem.
I heard you got stiffed after a $500 loan to your nephew.
I’ve heard about the blended families where everyone thought they were “entitled” to an inheritance.
But a senior citizen might not realize that they’re being swindled. Or if they know, they might be powerless or too terrified to stop it.
Elder financial abuse
A typical example of elder finance abuse is when a family member pressures an aging person to change his will to benefit them. Or a new “friend” with no prior close connection with a widow suddenly gains power of attorney over her personal affairs.
When you expose older people and their money to friends, acquaintances, caregivers, and family members, it can be unclear how to distinguish a coerced victim from a generous giver.
Linda told me about her Aunt Beth who has made a career of systematically befriending elders and stealing from them.
It started when Aunt Beth volunteered to help out her elderly neighbors by doing errands like grocery shopping or taking them to medical appointments. Aunt Beth behaved as if she were a devoted, selfless grandchild. She was rewarded when these grateful elders told her to “buy a little something for yourself.” They often gave her gifts, sometimes their old gold jewelry or other valuable possessions.
Or did Aunt Beth help herself to the riches at their homes? Linda thinks so.
Preying on the elderly
Linda told me that her aunt was a pro. She became overly friendly, used persuasive tactics, and latched onto these people who were “not in good shape mentally,” as Linda described it.
In one extreme case, a disabled man in his 80s gave Aunt Beth a new SUV even though she had known him only a few months. In his mental state, he couldn’t leave his own apartment, never mind make logical decisions about his assets.
Aunt Beth ran a tight operation. She found a vulnerable person, wormed her way into their daily life, gained their trust, and then ripped them off.
Next, she used that fledgling relationship for access to the victim’s family members or other people in their social circles. For example, the generous gentleman who gifted a car was a relative of another poor soul who gave her jewelry.
Once a relative or lawyer figured out Aunt Beth’s scams, she moved on to other victims.
Financial abuse at elderly living facilities
Nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and retirement communities were a treasure trove of opportunities for Aunt Beth. She quickly made herself a fixture by starting as a volunteer and becoming “friends” with the women residents despite the age gap of 40 years.
Aunt Beth became more brazen. Rather then working her way up from volunteer status, she boldly strode into nursing homes and claimed she was a resident’s beloved niece. Her act was convincing and the staff wasn’t suspicious. She had full access to the resident’s valuables and no one knew that items were disappearing.
Eventually, a bona fide niece would show up, exposing Aunt Beth, and she’d be banned from the facility. The nursing home sent alerts to other facilities to warn them of the Nursing Home Bandit masquerading as a caring and thoughtful relative.
Linda lamented to me, “If only my aunt could use her creativity and smarts for a good purpose, she could make lots of money honestly. Clearly she isn’t dumb because she gets away with these scams so many times.”
Experts agree that elder abuse happens to senior citizens who become vulnerable because of their social isolation.
If your friends or relatives live alone or in retirement facilities, please visit them on a regular basis to check in and maintain personal contact.
Protect yourself from elder financial abuse
As for yourself? Avoid dependency on a single person in your life. Develop and maintain a network of close friends and relatives. Stay connected.
I’ve only scratched the surface about the issue of financial exploitation and abuse of our senior citizens. It’s a problem that will only get worse as we all get older. There is so much more we need to learn in order to prevent, recognize, and stop it.
Please help our senior citizens live their final years with the dignity and the respect they deserve.
One day it will be your turn.
Do you know anyone who has been a victim of elder financial abuse?
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