How to Spot Financial Abuse

(This is a guest article by Lewis Bennett*)

Financial abuse is the act of stealing or defrauding someone of their money, possessions, or property. It is a very common form of abuse in the United States. If you are being financially abused, or know someone who is, then there are a number of ways that you can beat this problem but first you must learn how to identify it.

The following is a list of some of the indicators of financial abuse:

  • Forging a signature

  • If you notice that someone else is signing cheques for a friend or relative you will want to help them notify their bank immediately. Also pay close attention to any additional names being added onto a bank account, or large amounts of money being withdrawn by another person on behalf of your relative or friend. Elderly people often fall victim to this scam.

  • Inability to afford things

  • Another sign of financial abuse is when you notice that you or someone you know is suddenly unable to pay their bills or purchase items that they need and should be able to afford. This could happen when they are attempting to take out money at an ATM or if they are trying to pay for groceries with their debit card. Review financial statements and make sure that the reason they have insufficient funds is legitimate.

  • Things going missing

  • The most common form of financial abuse is when possessions of value start going missing. People with abusive partners and the elderly often find that valuable items around their home will start disappearing. In most cases the abuser will sell these items.

  • Unexplained changes to a will

  • This is another symptom of financial abuse that is especially prevalent among the elderly. Sometimes people will try to befriend elderly people hoping that they can make their way onto their will. If you are suffering from poor mental or physical health it can affect your decision-making processes. Predators will take advantage of these people to get on a will. You don’t want to be suspicious of everyone that might befriend an elderly relative but it’s also na├»ve to think that there aren’t people out there doing this.

How can this occur?

Often the person in question will be exploited by someone that they thought they could trust. This could be a carer, family friend, or even a member of the family. This can make spotting financial abuse difficult at times as it can be hard to distinguish. However, it is important to remember that no matter who is responsible for the abuse, it can all be dealt with by professional means.

Financial abuse can occur in the person’s own home, in a retirement home, or in a day care centre. The key is to be vigilant and recognise the signs above.

People that are most susceptible to financial abuse

Although people that suffer financial abuse come from a range of backgrounds, the following factors will make a person much more vulnerable:

  • Spending a lot of time alone
  • Mental or physical disabilities
  • Loneliness
  • Poor understanding of financial matters
  • Having unemployed family members or family with drug problems
  • Having family members that have recently died

Reasons for the financial abuse within the family

Oftentimes a family member such as son, daughter, grandchild, or spouse perpetrates these acts. They do this for a number of reasons:

  • They have drug, gambling, or financial problems
  • They stand to inherit a significant amount of money, which they feel is rightfully theirs
  • They have grudges with other family members and they want to prevent them from inheriting money
  • They have had a bad relationship with the family member and feel that they are owed this money

Who Should I Contact if I feel this is Happening?

If you are concerned for yourself or for someone that you know, then you should contact Health & Human Services in order to explain the situation to them. They should then be able to investigate the circumstances of this further.

Should you feel that a crime has been committed and you have proof of such, then you can contact the police. The important thing to remember is that you must contact someone for help immediately and do not let the situation continue. The police will likely suggest that you contact the bank to freeze bank accounts that might be jeopardized by the financial abuse.

If you feel that you require any legal advice then you should contact a professional body, such as a solicitor, for further help and guidance.

*About the author: This information was put together by IVA Advice, a provider of free debt advice and resources

*Image Credit: Photograph by seretuaccidente [via Flickr Creative Commons]

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Ashley said...

I've personally witnessed the financial abuse of an elderly family member and sadly on many occasions not much can be done. Our legal system is not set-up to protect individuals in these situations. Especially if the person abusing them has their power of attorney. When money is taken in smaller amounts more frequently (as opposed to lump sums every once in a while) the courts, as I've seen it, are not very willing to help.

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i personally experienced this one... and based on my experience, it is not a very good scenario in your life to be involve on this kind of situation...