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What Is Financial Elder Abuse?

What Is Financial Elder Abuse? Understanding Financial Exploitation


Elder abuse and financial exploitation are increasing problems among our friends, family members, and community. Basically, financial exploitation is a type of elder abuse. Elder abuse can take many forms, alone or in combination, including physical, psychological, emotional, or sexual abuse, neglect, abandonment, and self-neglect.

What is elder financial exploitation?

Financial exploitation is fraud. Within the confines of elder abuse, it is the illegal, unauthorized, or improper actions by another individual towards a specific senior. For example, it can be a caregiver, fiduciary, friend, or even a family member. Elder abuse comes in many forms. Overall, the fraudster utilizes the resources of an older person for personal profit or gain. Also, the perpetrator’s actions result in depriving an older person of benefits, resources, belongings, or assets. Elder financial exploitation includes the theft of money, property, or belongings.

Who is at risk for elder financial exploitation?

Everyone. Accordingly, financial exploitation crosses all social, gender, educational, ethnic, and economic boundaries. Anyone can be a victim of financial exploitation and fraud.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the definition of Financial Abuse or Exploitation is “The illegal, unauthorized, or improper use of an older individual’s resources by a caregiver or other person in a trusting relationship, for the benefit of someone other than the older individual. This includes depriving an older person of rightful access to, information about, or use of, personal benefits, resources, belongings, or assets.”

For example, this may include theft or misuse of money or possessions, forgery, coercion, deception, requests to surrender finances, obtaining use or forfeiting their property, or the improper use of guardianship or a power of attorney.

Why are older adults at risk of financial exploitation?

Older adults are at risk for financial exploitation due to a combination of several factors…

  • Generally, trusting and polite.
  • May be lonely, socially isolated, or depressed.
  • Has regular income or accumulated assets.
  • May suffer from health issues or a diminishing mental capacity.
  • Vulnerable due to grief from the loss of a spouse, family member, friend, or pet.
  • Reluctant to report or tell trusted individuals about exploitation by a family member, caregiver, or someone they depend on.
  • Are dependent on support from the perpetrator to remain independent.
  • Receive care from a person with addictive behavior (substance or gambling), financial problems, or mental health issues.
  • In fear of being retaliated against by the exploiter, they may be quiet about the situation.
  • May not be familiar with managing financial matters.
  • Did not plan for the loss of their decision-making capabilities.
  • Possibility of being cognitively impaired with diminished ability to make financial decisions or detect fraud or scams.
  • Often, may be dependent on another person who may pressure them for money or control of their finances.

What are some examples of financial exploitation?

  • Exploitation by someone with a power of attorney.
  • Theft of money or property.
  • Investment fraud and scams (for example, free lunch or dinner seminars selling fraudulent financial services, someone at your door stating that they represent a financial company).
  • Lottery and sweepstakes scams.
  • Grandparent/imposter scams – This often happens to grandparents with the caller claiming to be their grandson or granddaughter. The caller says there’s an emergency and asks you to send money immediately.
  • Tax and debt collection scams.
  • Charity scams.
  • Someone calling, asking for money, your social security number, or any personal information (sometimes stating that they are from the fraud department).
  • Calling, asking for your text message verification (No one should ever ask you for your verification code that is emailed or texted to you).
  • Computer and Internet scams.
  • Identity theft.
  • Reverse mortgage fraud.
  • Contractor fraud and home improvement scams.
  • Someone contacting you in person, online, by phone, or by text and requesting money, gift cards, stating that you won something, or stating that they know someone you know.

Who are the abusers?

Sadly, the abusers can be ultimately anyone (a stranger, someone you trust, or a person who is attempting to build a relationship with you) and all with the same goal of asking you for money in some way or form.

  • People you may naturally trust – Family members, Caregivers, Friends, Neighbors, Acquaintances.
  • Agents under a power of attorney or others with legal authority to manage your money or property.
  • People Online – They may send you an out-of-the-blue email or start up a chat through a messenger (Romance scams).
  • Telephone and mail scammers.
  • Salespeople who knock on your door.
  • Fraudulent debt collectors.
  • Financial advisors (Always check the background of the investment professional that you are working with on FINRA BrokerCheck before investing money)
  • Internet scammers.
  • Home repair contractors.
  • Medicare scam operators.
  • Other persons known or unknown to the older adult.


Why don’t older adults report financial exploitation?


  • Shame and embarrassment – Many people are ashamed to admit that they have been financially exploited.
  • Loyalty – Older adults may be reluctant to report a family member, caregiver, or another person who may treat them well in other ways.
  • Fear of retaliation – Older adults might fear not being believed or losing their independence by being declared incompetent and moved into a “nursing home.”
  • Dependence – Victims may be dependent on the abuser for care or assistance.
  • Denial – Some victims are unwilling or unable to acknowledge that financial exploitation is happening to them.
  • Self-blame – Abuse can erode an older person’s self-esteem, and some victims may believe they deserve or have caused the abuse.
  • Lack of awareness – Some victims are unaware that they are being exploited, or don’t know to whom they can report


What should you do if you or someone you know becomes a victim of financial exploitation or another form of elder abuse?


Overall, if you notice suspicious account activity or experience security-related events, contact Pearl Hawaii Federal Credit Union immediately.

Pearl Hawaii Federal Credit Union
94-449 Ukee Street
Waipahu, Hawaii 96797

PHONE | 808.737.4328

Additionally, you can visit any location to report suspicious account activity. For our branches and hours, visit our ATMs & Branches page.