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We may have a loved one, a neighbor, or a friend who is at risk of financial exploitation. How do we tell? And what should we do about it? Do you know what the elder financial exploitation red flags are?

A group of organizations* have created a Pocket Guide of Elder Investment and Financial Exploitation.

These are red flags of elder abuse:

    • Social isolation
    • Bereavement
    • Dependence on another to provide care
    • Financially responsible for an adult child or spouse
    • Alcohol or drug abuse
    • Depression or mental illness

There are also red flags of elder abuse which may be more easily seen in a clinical setting:

    • Cognitive problems
    • Fearful, emotionally labile or distressed
    • Suspicious, delusional
    • Change in appearance, poor hygiene
    • Accompanied by a caregiver who is overly protective; dominates
    • Change in ability to perform activities of daily living, including self-care, daily finances, medication management

If we see one or more of these red flags, how can we talk to the person about their ability to manage their finances?

We can start by asking five easy questions about managing finances:

    • Who manages your money day-to-day? How is that going?
    • Do you run out of money at the end of the month?
    • Do you regret or worry about financial decisions you’ve made recently?
    • Have you given a durable power of attorney to another person?
    • Do you have a will? Has anyone asked you to change it?

Depending on the answers, we may want to probe further.

We may also want to help the potential abuse victim explore getting help in one or more of these areas:

Social assessment, money management or care such as assistance with bill paying, money management or tax preparation; meals, transportation or activities of daily living (bathing, grooming, dressing, preparing food and eating, toileting and maintaining continence, moving from one place or position to another)

Legal advice or protection to make sure that they stay in charge of their medical care and finances to the greatest extent possible.

Fraud and exploitation reporting to the police, Adult Protective Services, the local District Attorney and the Texas Attorney General’s Office. The help of a local elder law attorney may be needed to stop this and try to recover funds.

Further medical evaluation for cognitive, neurological or other conditions.

Here are some resources for elder exploitation:

Social Services and Investor Protection.

National Center on Elder Abuse https://ncea.acl.gov/
United Way http://www.211.org
Case Management Society of America http://www.cmsa.org
North American Securities Administrators Assn. http://www.nasaa.org 
Investor Protection Trust http://investorprotection.org

Resources for Legal Advice or Protection

National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) http://www.naela.com

Resources for Potential Fraud or Exploitation

Adult Protective Services (APS) https://acl.gov/programs/elder-justice/supporting-adult-protective-services

Resources for Further Medical Evaluation

Specialists such as a geriatrician, neurologist, psychiatrist or psychologist. The MiniCog (https://mini-cog.com/).

Resources for Financial Care

Financial care for older adults https://guidechange.com/

*Investor Protection Trust, Investor Protection Institute, National Adult Protective Services Association, Baylor College of Medicine and North American Securities Administrators Association

For more helpful articles and information on elder abuse, visit:

Elder abuse is often a crime of opportunity. What do you watch for? What help is available? Read more for information and suggestions for help.

Elder Abuse: Who To Call who to call if you suspect an elderly person is being abused.

How to not be a victim: Remembering Jenny.


Elder law attorney, Terry Garrett, is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is active in the Texas and Austin Bar Associations. She graduated with honors from Cornell University. She was on the Dean’s List at Wharton Business School. She earned her J.D. at Columbia Law School, receiving the Parker Award and a Mellon Fellowship.


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