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Protecting your loved one against Elder Financial Abuse

Article courtesy of Member One Federal Credit Union

It’s a quietly growing crime with often devastating consequences: financial fraud targeting older victims, often online. In 2017, the U.S. Treasury Department reported over 60,000 cases of elder financial abuse, a 19% increase over the previous year. If you’re among the millions of American women who provide some level of care to a parent or older relative, or if you just want to watch out for older family members, be on your guard with these tips from the Member One Fraud Team.  

What is it?

Elder financial abuse could be any form of financial exploitation committed against an older adult. Across the United States and here in southwest Virginia, elderly fraud victims commonly fall prey to charity scams, IRS scams, fraudulent lotteries, email/phishing attacks, online romance scams, or family fraud. 

Common red flags. 

Signs of trouble include unpaid bills, disappearing household items, or changes in behavior. If you have access to your loved one’s bank and/or credit card statements, you may see evidence such as unusually low account balances (or unusually large withdrawal amounts), unusual credit card usage, or maxed out lines of credit. Multiple new loans or lines of credit being opened is another big giveaway. 

In some cases, your loved one may tell you that they’ve begun a relationship online. Ask questions and do your own research to verify whether what your loved one has been told by this person is true. Immediate red flags: the person claims to be in the military and in need of support, and/or requests that your loved one wire funds, ship property to a third party, or mail anything to another country. 

What you can do.

If you suspect fraud, contact your local branch of Adult Protective Services for support. You should also contact your loved one’s financial institution(s) immediately. Depending on the extent of the situation, you may decide to cancel debit/credit cards, change online banking passwords, place a warning on accounts, or even close the compromised accounts. Financial fraud should be reported to your local authorities. 

Stop it before it starts. 

In the best case scenario, you’d be able to protect your older loved one against financial abuse before it happened. Fortunately, there are ways of doing that. Contact your loved one’s financial institution and ask what kind of fraud protection they offer, such as automated fraud alerts. Talk with your loved one about the kind of information they’re sharing online, and remind them to be wary of anyone they haven’t met face-to-face. Ask them to consider adding a trusted joint holder to their bank accounts. You may also want to speak with a lawyer or financial planner for more personalized advice on how your family can protect its older members. 

Above all, trust your instincts! You know your loved one and are in the best position to help protect them—if something feels off, don’t hesitate to ask and to act. 


Join Member One here each month for more money-saving tips and financial advice! Be sure to visit their website, www.memberonefcu.com, for more info on their products and services. Member One Federal Credit Union is federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration.