You're probably already aware that the elderly are vulnerable to being taken advantage of by unscrupulous types pretending to be financial advisers, but they are also at risk of being fleeced by caregivers, neighbors, and even other family members. This type of financial abuse is much more difficult to discern than the more blatant type conducted by strangers -- and this is partly because it's often committed by those who are considered trustworthy and above reproach. Following are four signs that someone may be taking financial advantage of your elderly loved one.
Lack of Spending Money
If your senior loved one is frequently short when it comes to basic spending money, this may be a sign that someone is siphoning funds from his or her account. Ask to see bank statements and credit card bills, and keep a sharp lookout for any unusual expenditures. This situation may occur as a result of the senior giving access to debit or credit cards to someone else so that person can perform basic shopping tasks.
Signatures on Checks That Don't Match
Even though many people currently do their banking electronically, a significant number of elderly people continue to write paper checks on a regular basis. Look through your senior's cancelled checks for signs of signatures that don't match, and offer to help your senior set up an online banking system so that paper checks no longer have to be used. If your senior prefers to stick with paper checks, alerting his or her financial institution to the possibility that something may be amiss adds another pair of eyes to the situation.
Unpaid utility bills and neglected rent payments may mean that funds are being diverted for other purposes. If another person has the responsibility of paying certain bills using the senior's account, do not hesitate to confront this person about why certain important bills have not been paid. This can be a tricky situation, especially if the person in question has a power of attorney allowing him or her to act as the senior's financial representative.
Unexplained Disappearance of Personal Items
The unexplained disappearance of valuable items such as jewelry, fine silverware, or art is another sign that all may not be right with the senior's financial situation. Unfortunately, this kind of financial abuse is often very difficult to prove, and only the owners of the property can file theft charges. If you suspect that your senior loved one may be being taken advantage of financially by a caregiver or family member, you should make an appointment with an experienced elder law professional to explore your options.