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How to prevent financial abuse of a loved one

Abuse occurs in all types of relationships, and the elderly are common victims. The abuser can be a family member, caregiver or stranger.

The National Institute of Health, National Institute of Aging reports that older individuals experience physical, emotional and sexual abuse as well as neglect and abandonment. Financial abuse is also common, and there are ways to prevent it.

Signs of elder financial abuse

Financial abuse is not as obvious as some other types of abuse, because there are no physical signs. However, it occurs regularly, and AARP states that at least 369,000 reports of financial abuse occur every year, resulting in more than $4.5 billion in losses. Experts also estimate that the number of incidents is actually much higher.

Some signs that indicate someone is a victim of financial abuse include:

  • Unexplained withdrawals from accounts
  • Confusion related to financial matters
  • Unpaid bills or insufficient funds
  • Unusual behaviors such as giving gifts or loans
  • Bank statements are no longer delivered to the victim
  • The victim recently met someone online

How to prevent financial abuse

The good news is that many of the abuse incidents are preventable. One way is to assign someone you trust as the individual financial institutions call when there is questionable activity on the accounts. One can also assign view-only access. The elderly person can also name a trusted financial power of attorney.

There are online tools that can track investments, bank accounts and credit cards and send notifications about any suspicious activity. If you hire someone to care for your loved one, get to know him or her and keep a close eye on how things are going.

Social isolation is one of the reasons why the elderly become victims of financial abuse, and it also makes it harder to identify when abuse is happening. To prevent this, visit the individual and stay in contact regularly, noting if anyone new begins to form a relationship with your loved one.

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