Elder financial exploitation is the illegal or improper use of an elderly adult’s funds, property, or resources by another individual. This exploitation can take many forms, including scams, abuse by trusted individuals such as family members or friends, and predatory products and services marketed specifically to the elderly.

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Governor Cuomo’s 2015 Opportunity Agenda directed the Department of Financial Services (DFS) to redouble its efforts to protect elderly New Yorkers from financial exploitation. DFS has issued guidance to financial institutions on steps they can take to prevent elder financial exploitation, but all New Yorkers can take proactive steps to prevent elder financial exploitation.

The tips and resources below provide important information on identifying forms of elder financial exploitation and reporting suspected abuse to the proper authorities.

Who is at Risk of Elder Financial Exploitation?
Here are some risk factors to consider:

  • Elders most vulnerable to abuse tend to be between the ages of 80 and 89.
  • The majority of abused elders are women.
  • A significant number of elderly individuals experience cognitive decline or cognitive incapacity.
  • Elders are at a higher risk of abuse if they live alone, are isolated from their communities, rely on others for care, or have limited social relationships

Warning Signs of Financial Abuse
No one single thing is proof of elder financial abuse – the following are only possible warning signs. Be on the lookout for:

  • Unpaid bills which the elder should have the means to pay
  • Purchasing or spending behavior that appears to be out-of-character
  • New “best friends” (people who have recently become close to the elder) who are not promoting the elder’s best interests or are claiming a right to funds
  • Sudden changes in an elder’s will, trust, insurance or other financial documents
  • Abrupt or unexplained transfers of assets
  • Confusion about recent financial arrangements or changes

General Prevention Tips for Elders 

  • Talk about your finances only with trusted friends, family and financial professionals. 
  • When possible, use checks and credit cards instead of cash.
  • Exercise caution when providing your financial or other personal information over the phone or Internet, and resist pressure to give someone financial information or access to your financial accounts.
  • Always ask for more information in writing and get a second opinion before changing your power of attorney, wills, trusts, or any of your personal financial information.

Know where to get help if you find yourself, or someone close to you, the victim of financial exploitation
While there are many resources available two agencies that can provide further guidance on this topic are; The New York State Coalition on Elder Abuse at www.nyselderabuse.org and Adult Protective Service. APS also provides a helpline you can call: 1-844-697-3505.

Additional resources used:

Tonya A McCaughey

VP, Retail Operations Manager

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