Learn about the risks for and signs of financial exploitation

Financial exploitation is the most common form of elder abuse. Being aware of the warning signs for theft, fraud, scams or other financial exploitation can help older adults stay safe.

Older adults are more susceptible to financial exploitation if they:

  • Take more than 5 medications

  • Have serious or worsening health conditions

  • Have trouble remembering, reasoning or doing math

  • Have difficulty physically moving

  • Have significant vision or hearing loss

  • Are isolated, depressed or lonely

  • Are widowed or live alone

  • Live with someone who depends on them for free food, housing or other needs

  • Give other people access to financial accounts, especially paid help

  • Spend time with others who feel entitled to their money

An older adult who's being exploited financially might:

  • Get lots of junk mail or phone calls

  • Start making unusual withdrawals or using cash more

  • Start giving large or unusual gifts to someone

  • Have trouble paying bills

  • Same quiet around or afraid of a relative, friend or paid help

  • Say they're worried about money or financial decisions

  • Become secretive about finances

  • Make sudden changes to wills, or insurance or retirement plans

  • Have trouble with health tasks, like managing medications or going to appointments

Other signs of financial exploitation include:

  • Suspicious signatures on checks or withdrawal slips

  • Unusual account activity, like new loans or large withdrawals

  • Missing checkbooks, documents, cash or valuables

  • Others who try to isolate, speak for or bully the older adult

  • Others close to the older adult who suddenly have more money or expensive items

Law enforcement, adult protective services specialists, bankers and other professionals can investigate suspected financial exploitation. They can also protect accounts and other resources from theft or other financial exploitation.

Sometimes, signs that look like financial exploitation can be caused by chronic health conditions. For example, feeling anxious, losing weight or being confused about financial decisions could all be caused by either worsening health or financial exploitation.

Different cultures and families have different approaches to sharing financial resources. Understanding what's expected or "normal" for a person can help determine if something is financial exploitation.