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Financial Planning > Behavioral Finance

Watch for these elder abuse red flags

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As an advisor to senior clients, you’re in a position to witness evidence of financial exploitation, a form of elder abuse. To help financial institutions and advisors identify and report such problems, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has issued a list of “red flags” to watch for.

FIRST, look for erratic or unusual banking transactions or changes in banking patterns. Bank personnel may be better equipped to spot these events, although advisors may learn of them second-hand:

  • Frequent large withdrawals, including daily maximum currency withdrawals from an ATM.
  • Sudden Non-Sufficient Fund activity.
  • Uncharacteristic nonpayment for services, which may indicate a loss of funds or access to funds.
  • Debit transactions that are inconsistent for the elder.
  • Uncharacteristic attempts to wire large sums of money.
  • Closing of CDs or accounts without regard to penalties.

SECOND, watch for unusual behavior on the part of customers or caregivers. Examples include:

  • A caregiver or other individual shows excessive interest in the elder’s finances or assets, does not allow the elder to speak for himself or herself, or is reluctant to leave the elder’s side during conversations.
  • The elder shows an unusual degree of fear or submissiveness toward a caregiver, or expresses a fear of eviction or nursing home placement if money is not given to a caretaker.
  • The advisor is unable to speak directly with the elder, despite repeated attempts to contact him or her.
  • A new caretaker, relative, or friend suddenly begins conducting financial transactions on behalf of the elder without proper documentation.
  • The customer moves away from existing relationships and toward new associations with other “friends” or strangers.
  • The elderly individual’s financial management changes suddenly, such as through a change of power of attorney to a different family member or a new individual.

If you notice any of these events or a pattern of them, immediately notify your local law enforcement authorities.


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