Elder financial abuse: the stranger factor

Although we always presume that elder financial abuse is done by family insiders or cagey ‘friends’ who have winnowed themselves into someone’s life, an article I read on Forbes.com recently pointed out that over 50% of them are total strangers.

Even more intriguing is that most of these people use mail, phone and more recently, email to contact seniors with any number of scams.

Web fraudSeniors over 65 comprise fully 35 percent all financial exploitation in the US. It can be something as mundane as signing up for magazine subscriptions they don’t want, signing papers taking away some or all of their assets or even people pretending to be a grandchild of theirs calling with urgent requests for emergency cash.

A recent scam involves ‘computer technicians’ calling to get personal information about account passwords so they can access their bank accounts.

This has become such a serious problem worldwide that the United Nations designated June 15 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

Most victims live alone, have a serious health condition that limits mobility and have a more trusting view of others.

As someone trying to keep an eye on your parents whether they live around the corner or across the country, there are some things you can do.

Educate  yourself on common senior scams and go over them with your parents from time to time. And since new scams hit the circuit as quickly as old ones get shut down, make sure to keep up on the issue. It’s a good topic to discuss with them when you visit or call, much like keeping up with their activities.


As a son, daughter or good friend, there are warning signs to watch for including the appearance of a new ‘friend’ in their lives, comments about misplacing credit cards since the arrival of that new companion, withdrawals in their account for cheques related to unknown individuals or companies and / or large credit card purchases.

Even more frustrating, a parent may feel embarrassed because they have been or feel they are being taken advantage of and they may not want to admit it to you for fear that it may limit their independence.

The National Council on Aging has a good list of recent scams which I’ve linked here. Read those, research others, but most importantly, start discussing this with your loved one. Being aware is half the battle for you and them.

Click here to read the Forbes.com article