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Financial Exploitation

Financial exploitation refers to two types of financial crimes committed against older adults.

  • Financial abuse (committed by someone you know)
  • Financial fraud (committed by a stranger)

Both result in serious financial, physical, and emotional harm to older adults.

People who commit financial crimes may use charm, persuasion, lies, threats, and a variety of other approaches. Their goal is to separate older adults from their money.

No one is ever to blame for their financial victimization, and anyone can be a victim. The blame lies with those who commit these crimes. You have the right to report it and get help.

The Department of Justice is striving to combat financial crimes against older Americans. Below, learn about common financial scams and financial abuse committed against older adults and how to get involved in making your community safer. If you need help, the Elder Abuse Resource Roadmap can guide you to the right agency for your particular situation.

Spotting Financial Abuse (Committed by Someone You Know)

A financial power of attorney is a document you make. You name someone else (called the agent) to make decisions for you if you cannot make decisions about money matters yourself. An agent abuses the power of attorney when they take your money or things for themself, not for you. For example, an agent might take out your money from a bank, sell stock, or change the name on the deed to your house. They might use this money just for themself.

Someone you know takes your debit or credit card without asking you. Then they use it for themself. They might use it at an ATM, get cash back at a store, or buy things for themself. Or, you might have said they could use the card only to buy your groceries, but they also buy things for themself, too.

Professionals like lawyers or brokers abuse your trust and steal from you. For example, your financial adviser or lawyer takes money from your account and spends it on themself. Your lawyer might convince you to name them as your agent under a power of attorney so they can get your money.

Someone you know threatens to harm you to scare you into giving them your money or things. For example, they say they will hurt you or the pet you love if you do not give them what they want. They might also say they will put you in a nursing home or stop taking care of you to scare you into handing over your money.

Someone you know signs your name, pretending to be you, to get your money or property. They might fake your name on a check, a power of attorney, a trust, a deed, or a loan paper.

Instead of using your money to pay assisted living or nursing home bills, the person who is supposed to pay your bills uses your money for themself. Then you might be evicted for not paying your bill.

If you live in a nursing home, an employee or other person connected with the nursing home might steal your personal property (such as jewelry or cash) or take money from your personal needs account. They might convince you to sign a document such as a power of attorney or to make them a joint owner of your bank account to get access to your money.

Someone you know might take you to your bank or broker, or to a car dealer or other business. They might scare you into being quiet while they talk for you. For example, they might say to the bank teller that you want to take out money. They might have you sign a car loan for a car you do not want or need.

Someone enters your life and offers to help you with small things. Over time they become more and more involved in your life until they have taken over a lot of control. They may begin asking you for money or abuse your trust in them to take your money or assets.

Report Financial Abuse

Find your local Adult Protective Services (APS) agency at the Eldercare Locator or by calling 1-800-677-1116

Or contact your local police or sheriff

Spotting Financial Fraud (Committed by a Stranger)

Someone contacts you online, maybe through a dating website, an online game, or social media. These scammers pretend to be someone they are not so they can gain your trust and then ask you for money. The scammer will tell you they’ve fallen in love, but have some reason they can’t meet in person. The scammer will start asking you to send money so they can meet you, deal with an emergency, start a business, or help you "invest", sometimes in cryptocurrency.

Someone contacts you and pretends to be from the government (such as the Social Security Administration, IRS, or the police), or a company (such a bank or online company). Scammers will tell you there is a serious problem with your account or benefits, or that you are a suspect in a crime. They may warn you that your benefits are being stopped, that you’ll be arrested, or that your money is not safe. A scammer will tell you the way to fix this problem is to pay money or move your money to a “safe” account the scammer provides you.

Someone contacts you and says that you’ve won a sweepstakes, lottery prize, or gift. At times, scammers will even pretend to be a government agency helping to make sure you get your winnings. But the catch is you must pay a fee to obtain your winnings, and then you never receive a prize or gift.

You get a pop-up on your computer or a phone call or email saying that you have a problem with your computer. The scammers may pretend to be from a well-known company. Then scammers will ask to “remote” into your computer, meaning they can access and control your computer. Scammers will tell you there is a problem that needs fixing immediately and tell you to pay a fee. At times, scammers will also pretend to offer you a refund. They will pretend to refund you too much money ($4500 instead of $450) and ask you to return the difference.

You’ll get a phone call from someone pretending to be a family member, such as a grandchild, or someone calling for a family member. The scammer will say your family member is in trouble—often arrested or seriously injured—and needs money right away. Scammers often demand that you keep this phone call a secret.

Someone offers you one of the best investment chances you’ve ever seen. Scammers trick you into putting your money in stocks, cryptocurrency, real estate, or many other things. Scammers promise big returns on your investment with little or no risk. At times, a scammer may even show you a fake statement that makes it look like your investment is doing well or even send you some money to get you to pay more.

You’ll get an email or text message that looks like it is from a company (a bank or a shipping company) or the government, but is actually a trick to get you to provide information about yourself. Scammers may say, for example, that they are concerned about some activity on your account or that they need to double check some information, such as your username and password, your Social Security number, or a credit card number. Scammers will use that information to take your money or open accounts or seek benefits in your name.

Report Financial Fraud

Call the Elder Fraud Hotline at 1-833-372-8311 (Monday-Friday, 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. ET. English/espanol/other languages available)

Or contact your local police or sheriff