Estate PlanninG

Are Your Seniors Being Financially Exploited?

We expect our golden years to be relaxing and rewarding. Yet as we grow older, we tend to start relying on other to assist us with things that we could once handle on our own. It is during those times that we become susceptible to being taken advantage of by the very people we trust. In fact, it is believed that 1 out of 20 seniors in the US are financially abused. The sadder part is that the financial exploitation of seniors is primarily carried out by family members and other trusted individuals in the senior’s life, 90% to be exact. [National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA)]

The severity of this issue demands attentiveness on the part of both the senior but also those close to them. Elder financial abuse can take on various forms ranging from outright theft of a senior’s assets to the common con or scam that prey on seniors’ trust and at times reliance on others. The National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse [NCPEA] and [NAPSA] provide exhaustive lists on their websites but here are a few more examples:

  • Forging an older person’s signature
  • Getting an older person to sign a deed, will, or power of attorney through deception, coercion, or undue influence
  • Using the older person’s property or possessions without permission
  • Promising lifelong care in exchange for money or property and not following through on the promise
  • Pressuring seniors into taking out inappropriate reverse mortgages or other loans, known as Predatory Lending
  • Threatening to abandon, hit or otherwise harm the victim unless they give the perpetrator what they want

How Can I Tell if this is Happening?

If you are in the unique position of having access to your elder’s bank statements, knowing their sources of income and expenses, then you are best situated to help them identify potential abuse. When it comes to cases like these, it usually won’t be the obvious email scam, but rather a series of occurrences that should raise some red flags.

If you have access to bank statements, be on the lookout for any unusual activity such as withdrawals or transfers between accounts that they can’t explain or have no recollection of. Have they begun the process of adjusting their estate unexpectedly? If so, they could have been pressured or be signing documents that they don’t have a complete understanding of. Once again, the NCPEA provides more information on this topic.

In addition, the behavior and situations of those near your older relative should be taken into consideration. Does someone have a gambling problem or is currently in a dire financial situation? These things can be even more troublesome as family dynamics and extremely personal relationships can become involved.

What Can I Do?

The best way to address elder financial abuse is to prevent it from starting in the first place. If your older relative has reached a point where they are having difficulty taking care of themselves, they’re becoming more reliant on others, or if they’re increasingly isolated and therefore prone to being targeted, you should do your best to create a network around them that can look after them. This means keeping in contact with them and listening to them. Keep an ear out for any mentions of a “new investment opportunity” or a new friend/caretaker that seems to express an unusual interest in your relative’s estate. More often than not, you can prevent scams before they even start by being attentive.

Calling an expert on elder financial exploitation can always provide clarity to a crime that isn’t always that obvious. Our law office of Santaella Legal Group, APC specializes in elder law and are familiar with all forms of elder financial abuse. Although we can provide our professional assessment of your elder’s situation, it is up to you to report and seek out further help in order to put an end to your elder’s abuse.

If you wish to know more about our services, go to or reach us at 925-831-4840.

Below are the 24 HR Abuse Hotline #s for both Alameda and Contra Costa Counties respectively:

(866) 225-5277

(877) 839-4347 (925) 646-2854