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Protecting your parents from Financial Exploitation

Financial exploitation or abuse of older adults occurs when a person’s resources are used by another for personal profit or gain, or actions that deprive an older person of the benefits entitled to them. No one is immune. This sort of theft can happen to anyone regardless of social standing and education levels.

Financial abuse can come from all corners. Some businesses prey on older adults and use unfair, deceptive, and abusive practices. That said, not all of the abusers are strangers. Many times financial exploitation is committed by a person that your loved one knows and trusts. Be aware that potential abusers are people with drug or alcohol issues, people with gambling problems, people with untreated mental illnesses, and people who are financially dependent. If this describes anyone who is a close relative or caregiver to your family, be alert.

Have a conversation with your parents about different financial scams. Start a conversation by recounting a story on the news about a telephone scam or theft through the internet. You can continue the conversation by reviewing guidelines with your loved ones. Remind them that they should never email account numbers to anyone or fall for an emailed sob story about someone in an emergency situation who desperately needs money. Telephone scam artists are also very aggressive. Tell your loved one that it is ok to hang up on a person who is pushing them for money over the phone.

Educate your parents on identify theft and the importance of shredding any documents with their personal information. Buy a paper shredder for them and teach them how to use it. Encourage your parents to sign up for direct deposit for their paycheck, retirement check, or any government benefits. This will prevent someone from stealing a check out of their mailbox.

Let your parents know that they are not obligated to help family members who ask for money. They should be wary of anyone asking them for money, and then asking them to keep it a secret.

There are agencies that can help. Eldercare Locator will be able to put you in touch with resources in your loved one’s local area. Contact them at 800-677-1116, or their website at If you have concerns about your loved one’s financial products such as mortgage, credit cards, or bank accounts, contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at 855-411-2372.

Resource: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau