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When Willy Sutton was asked why he robbed banks, he answered, “Because that’s where the money is.”

70% of it is held by people over 50.1

We are being robbed.

Every year one out of five Americans is a victim of some form of financial abuse.2 In 2017 the Federal Trade Commission received 2.7 million reports.3 Much of the theft goes unreported. Some may also go unnoticed….until it is too late.

Altered checks, fake checks, duplicate checks and unauthorized debit charges abound.

Fake debt collectors scare the pants off people.

Others are duped by requests for “refunds” for “overpayment” or by outright imposter scams and identity theft.

We fear letting our children or others know. We fear admitting the problem to ourselves. Could it be the first sign of dementia?

It isn’t. Everyone’s ability to handle math and complicated matters begins to decline at 53.

6 things to do to curb senior financial abuse and exploitation

  1. Read every statement.
  2. Balance your checkbook.
  3. Put more things on automatic payment.
  4. Freeze your credit.
  5. Tell “debt collectors” that you are reporting them to the FTC and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – and do.
  6. Do you know your banker and tellers? Only 38% of seniors bank online. People who know you and know your habits can help protect you. The Senior Safe Act lets the people at your bank report suspicious activity.

They can help. But you are your own best defense.

Find out more about the Senior Safe Act in this fact sheet: Senior Safe Act Fact Sheet.

If you suspect elder abuse, this list may help you with reporting: Elder Abuse: who to call.


1 American Bankers Association
2 Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, “Issues Advisory Report for Financial Institutions on Preventing Elder Abuse” May 2016.
3 Federal Trade Commission, “Consumer Central Network Data Book 2017”


Estate Planning 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.

She assists families of people with special needs, people planning for the retirement years and people administering estates.

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