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According to the National Council on Aging, estimates of elder financial abuse and fraud costs to older Americans range from $2.6 billion to $36.5 billion annually.

Although elder abuse can include physical, emotional, neglect, and abandonment, learn about the most common types of elder financial exploitation.

Ways the elderly are financially abused

Elder financial abuse spans a broad spectrum of conduct, including:

  • Taking, misusing, or using without knowledge or permission money or property.
  • Forging or forcing an elder person's signature.
  • Misusing ATMs or credit cards.
  • Cashing an elder person's checks without permission or authorization.
  • Misappropriating funds from a pension.
  • Getting an elder person to sign a deed, will, contract, power of attorney, or change insurance policy benefits through deception, coercion, or undue influence.
  • Providing true but misleading information that influences the elder person's use or assignment of assets.
  • Negligently mishandling assets, including misuse by a fiduciary or caregiver.
  • Promising long-term or lifelong care in exchange for money or property and not following through on the promise.
  • Overcharging for or not delivering caregiving services.
  • Denying elder persons access to their money or preventing them from controlling their assets
  • Scams are fraudulent or deceptive acts.
  • Fraud is the use of deception, trickery, false pretense, or dishonest acts or statements for financial gain.
  • Telemarketing scams. Perpetrators call victims and use deception, scare tactics, or exaggerated claims to get them to send money. They may also make charges against victims’ credit cards without authorization.

Signs of a scam

There are distinguishing factors you should be aware of:

  • A “hook”:Something to attract you and cause you to pay less attention to the details.
  • Manipulation: Scammers manipulate people into trusting them.
  • A deadline: If a solicitation has a strict deadline that gives you little time to decide, it is likely a scam.

Common types of elder financial exploitation?

There are several common types of financial abuse to the elderly, according to the New York State Department of Financial Services. They include:

Phishing emails

A scammer may reach out via email impersonating an insurance carrier or doctor’s office requesting an update to victim’s insurance records, or payment card information to process their prescription or last exam visit.

Sweepstakes scams

  • Notifications that you've won a sweepstake are often scams. One way these notifications trick elders is by using a name which sounds like a government agency or official-sounding authority.
  • If, as the "winner" of a sweepstake, you are asked to pay taxes and fees by sending a check or wiring money, this is likely a scam.
  • A sweepstake may ask for your banking information to direct deposit your "winnings." This is an attempt to steal your identity and access the money in your bank account, not deposit money.

Identity theft

Identity Theft occurs when someone steals your personal information to gain access to your credit, bank accounts, medical care, or other aspects of your finances.

Home improvement/home repair scams

  • Knocks on your door or calls you on the phone offering to make repairs.
  • Tells you that you must make repairs immediately.
  • Talks very quickly to confuse you and pressures you to sign a contract immediately.
  • Tells you they are doing work in your neighborhood and have extra materials left from another job.
  • Offers a discounted price if you refer other people to them, but only if you buy today.
  • Tells you something that sounds too good to be true. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
  • Is not an established local business, but has come to the area from somewhere else to “help.”

Telephone scams

  • Grandparent scams: A caller claims to be the elder's grandchild by saying something like "Grandma, it's me...please don't tell my parents." This often prompts the elder to supply their actual grandchild's name. The caller will say that they are out of town and in desperate need of money either to make bail, pay for hospital bills, or to come home. The caller will ask the elder not to tell the parents and just to send the money. Scammers sometimes use actual relatives' names and information taken from social media and internet sites.
  • Charities: Scammers might slightly change the name of a well-known charity to trick or confuse elders and will pressure them to give on the spot.

Health care and prescription drug scams

Scammers have been known to impersonate pharmaceutical companies, calling their targets to provide updated insurance, personal, or financial information over the phone. The scammer will threaten the victim into providing the update information or they will “stop” their next refill. The victim may be unaware of the threat and be more willing to give their information so they can receive their refill.

  • Health care scams take a variety of forms. You might see an ad on TV telling you about a new law that requires you to get a new health care card. Maybe you get a call offering you discounts on health insurance or from someone claiming they work for the government, and they need your Medicare number to issue you a new card.
  • Counterfeit drug scams mostly occur on the Internet, when elders research how to get better prices on their medications. Elders may end up paying for something that won't help their medical condition or may purchase unsafe drugs.

“Trusted person” abuse

  • "Trusted Person" abuse occurs when friends, caregivers, family members or others in a position of trust with the elder abuse that trust.
  • Because family members have a unique relationship with the elder and can often access the elder's financial information, family members commit a large portion of financial abuse.
  • Trusted person abusers may threaten to put the elder in a nursing home if they don't comply with the person's wishes.
  • A trusted person abuser will often isolate the elder from other friends and family, make important decisions for the elder, and try to leave the elder out of conversations.

Remember that government agencies will never call you over the phone. If they are looking to reach out you, they will contact you via mail. If you receive a call saying they are from a financial institution, insurance company, or pharmacy, hang up on them and call the institution or company directly from a known phone number such as on the top of a check, prescription bottle, or back of a payment card.

The information in this article was obtained from various sources not associated with Adirondack Bank. While we believe it to be reliable and accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information. Adirondack Bank is not responsible for, and does not endorse or approve, either implicitly or explicitly, the information provided or the content of any third-party sites that might be hyperlinked from this page. The information is not intended to replace manuals, instructions or information provided by a manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional, or to affect coverage under any applicable insurance policy. These suggestions are not a complete list of every loss control measure. Adirondack Bank makes no guarantees of results from use of this information.