Knowledge and Insights

Do You Know How to Identify Elder Fraud & Financial Abuse?

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The Population Reference Bureau report, “Aging in the United States,” examines recent trends and disparities among adults ages 65 and older, and how baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 will reshape America’s older population.  The number of Americans ages 65 and over is expected to exceed 98 million by 2060, increasing their share of the total population to 24%. According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), elder financial abuse and fraud costs to older Americans range from $2.9 billion to $36.5 billion annually. As the 65 and over population grows, elder financial abuse and fraud totals are also likely to increase.

It can be difficult to identify elder financial abuse, particularly when many older Americans are reluctant to relinquish their financial independence or are embarrassed to ask for assistance minding their financial affairs. Many times, family is unaware that a fraud was perpetrated until their loved one has passed away, and even then, if they don’t know what they’re looking for, it can be a daunting task to quantify or rectify the losses.

Some financial abusers simply strong-arm or coerce their victims into turning over money – with or without a threat of violence – while others are more sophisticated. Frequently, abusers are trusted loved ones who hold joint bank accounts or power of attorney over the victims. Others contact victims using schemes that include high-risk investments, internet scams, identity theft, and real estate and insurance frauds.

Here are examples of things to look for if you suspect elder financial abuse:

  • Money missing from accounts – large unexplained purchases, transfers or checks payable to cash, frequent ATM transactions or cash withdrawals
  • Unusual use of credit cards – sudden increase in frequency of usage, large purchases or unusual online shopping patterns
  • Neglected or new bills – past due invoices or shut-off notices surface or invoices for new subscriptions, memberships, services or charities are received
  • Missing possessions – furniture, artwork or jewelry are suddenly unaccounted for

So, what do you do when you suspect illegal attempts to access or actual use of an older person’s funds or property? Your approach would vary depending on the situation. For immediate threats, call emergency services (9-1-1) or your state’s Adult Protective Services Agency. Other steps might include filing identity theft reports, notifying financial institutions or insurance companies, or hiring legal counsel and forensic accountants.

That’s where we can help.  Mercadien’s Forensic & Litigation Support Services Team has years of experience working collaboratively with attorneys, bankers, financial and insurance advisors, as well as prosecutor and district attorney offices, sheriff and police departments, and the judiciary, to help their clients – individuals, families and businesses – investigate and recover from fraud and financial abuse. With our certifications in fraud examination, financial forensics and public accounting, and as providers of expert training and testimony, our professionals help to support legal actions related to fraud and financial abuse and establish processes to prevent them. To learn about our services and how we might assist with your or a client’s situation, please contact me at or 609-689-2353.