Financial Abuse of Elders - Signs and Remedies

Financial elder abuse occurs when someone wrongfully takes, retains or uses an elder’s real or personal property or money.

Due to recognized limitations (vision, hearing) and other infirmities, elders are easy prey for financial abuse. Abusers can be a family member, caregiver, professional (accountant, lawyer), spouse, significant other or a stranger. The abuser often works to isolate and weaken the elder such that the elder cannot differentiate between someone who genuinely is working in their best interests and someone who is taking advantage of them.

Some examples of financial abuse include using an elder’s credit card for personal purchases, convincing an elder to invest in high risk securities, writing checks from the elder’s bank account, removing personal items of value from an elder’s home, and convincing an elder to enter into contracts with questionable financial commitments. Additional signs of financial abuse include numerous withdrawals from bank accounts, early withdrawals from investments despite penalties, adding names to an elder’s bank account, changes in beneficiaries on life insurance policies, wills or trusts, or bank activity inconsistent with the person’s abilities such as numerous ATM withdrawals from a generally housebound elder.

Family members and friends, who are not caregivers, are critical in preventing financial elder abuse and can do so by reviewing bank and credit card statements for unusual transactions, call and visit the elder frequently to monitor the elder’s environment, insure the elder is eating properly and taking any required medications, and, take the elder on outings without the caregiver being sensitive to what the elder says especially about money.

Prevention of financial elder abuse is the key. Governmental agencies exist to investigate claims of elder abuse (Department of Public Social Services in Riverside County). However, if an elder has been abused financially, specific laws directed at remedying financial elder abuse provide for enhanced monetary remedies including the recovery of attorneys’ fees if litigation is necessary.

Bob Caietti is a partner with Walters & Caietti, APC, and can be contacted in his Temecula office located at 40140 Winchester Rd., Ste. C, Temecula CA 92591, 951.693.2024, via email or