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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Financial Abuse and Exploitation: What to Look For – An Update from the NCIL Violence & Abuse Task Force

Unfortunately, financial abuse and exploitation of seniors and people with disabilities is on the rise. Financial exploitation is the unauthorized use of another person’s money for personal profit or gain and it is illegal in every state. Some examples are:

  • Cashing checks without authorization / permission
  • Forging another person’s signature
  • Misusing or stealing a person’s money or possessions
  • Coercing or deceiving a person into signing documents such as a contract or will
  • The improper use of conservatorship, guardianship, or power of attorney

People are usually surprised to find out who the most frequent abusers are, and sadly family and friends usually top the list. Others include caregivers (both paid and volunteer), professionals hired by the victim (i.e. contractors, lawyers, accountants), or strangers (either met in public or those who come to the home). So it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of abuse:

  • Sudden changes in bank accounts or banking practices
  • Unexplained withdrawals of a lot of money by a person accompanying the victim
  • Adding names on a bank signature card 
  • Unapproved withdrawal of funds using an ATM card
  • Sudden changes in a will or other financial documents
  • Unexplained missing funds or valuables
  • Suddenly receiving substandard care
  • Unpaid bills despite having enough money
  • Forged signature for financial transaction or for the titles of property
  • Unexplained sudden transfers of assets
  • Providing unnecessary services
  • A complaint of financial exploitation

There are some simple ways that you or a loved one can protect yourself from becoming a victim. Never sign a blank check, don’t leave money or valuables in plain sight, and be aware of scams in your area (either by phone or through the mail). If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is a scam. Do not give strangers access to your banking information, and check your financial statements frequently and carefully for unauthorized transactions. Do not sign any document until you have read it completely and fully understand it; don’t be afraid to ask questions and trust your instincts. Don’t be pressured by family, friends or caregivers to do anything you don’t want to do. And finally, if you are being exploited or suspect someone you know is, call your area’s Adult Protective Services, your local Center for Independent Living, or the police. Protecting seniors and people with disabilities from financial abuse and exploitation is your business; we must stand together and protect each other to stop this rising tide.

Comments

  1. May we have permission to reprint this article in our consumer newsletter?

    • theadvocacymonitor says:

      Hi Deone – Apologies, we are just seeing your comment now. Yes – please feel free to publish this (or any AM) articles with credit to NCIL. Thank you!

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