Elder financial or material exploitation is defined as the illegal or improper use of an elder’s funds, property, or assets. Examples include, but are not limited to, cashing an elderly person’s checks without authorization or permission; forging an older person’s signature; misusing or stealing an older person’s money or possessions; coercing or deceiving an older person into signing any document (e.g., contracts or will); and the improper use of conservatorship, guardianship, or power of attorney.
Often, credit unions are quick to suspect elder financial exploitation based on staff familiarity with their elderly members. Credit unions have the potential to be the “first line of defense” against financial abuse, by identifying the abuse at its outset.
According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), signs and symptoms of financial or material exploitation include, but are not limited to:
- sudden changes in bank account or banking practice, including an unexplained withdrawal of large sums of money by a person accompanying the elder;
- the inclusion of additional names on an elder’s bank signature card;
- unauthorized withdrawal of the elder’s funds using the elder’s ATM card;
- abrupt changes in a will or other financial documents;
- unexplained disappearance of funds or valuable possessions;
- substandard care being provided or bills unpaid despite the availability of adequate financial resources;
- discovery of an elder’s signature being forged for financial transactions or for the titles of his/her possessions;
- sudden appearance of previously uninvolved relatives claiming their rights to an elder’s affairs and possessions;
- unexplained sudden transfer of assets to a family member or someone outside the family;
- the provision of services that are not necessary; and
- an elder’s report of financial exploitation.