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When he was asked why he robbed banks, Willie Sutton famously replied, “Because that’s where the money is.” Today, our retirement nest eggs are where the money is.

Whatever their size, those nest eggs are a tempting target. As we age, our ability to protect them decreases.

Some of us are fortunate to have someone in our lives to keep an eye out for us. If we are wise, we set up a sustainable system of checks and balances with family members and friends, our tax preparer and CPA and maybe a geriatric caregiver or elder lawyer long before we need it. We close the barn door before the horse has a chance to bolt.

But somehow the thieves always seem to find a back door. How can they be caught before all the money is gone?

A Checklist for Signs of Financial Abuse of the Elderly

The National Institute of Financial Issues and Services for Elders, a unit of the National Council on Aging, has created a checklist.

  1. The elderly person’s living conditions are well below his or her financial resources.
  2. Unusual or inappropriate bank account activity is reported.
  3. Frequent checks for cash are written to a care giver or financial professional.
  4. Bills go unpaid or are overdue when someone is supposed to be paying them.
  5. The elderly person transfers title of his or her home for no apparent reason.
  6. Large, frequent gifts are made to a caregiver.
  7. The person is reluctant to talk about once routine topics.
  8. Personal belongings are missing.
  9. Attempts are made by a care giver, friend or relative to isolate the person from others.
  10. Changes are made in the Will when the person appears to be incapacitated.
  11. The older person takes out large, unexplained loans.
  12. A live-in caregiver refuses to leave or is evasive about financial arrangements.

Who you gonna call?

See the list available here: Elder Abuse: Who To Call.


Elder law attorney, Terry Garrett, is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is an Approved Guardianship Attorney. She assists people in elder law, estate and special needs planning, guardianship and settling estates. 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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