Financial Abuse of Elders

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The FBI warns that senior citizens are the targets of scam artists because seniors often have financial assets and can be manipulated into signing documents like contracts for unneeded goods or services. Even worse yet, fragile seniors can be convinced that the right thing to do is to sign over their assets to a predator who is taking advantage of their situation.

In the Nursing Home

Scam artists easily target seniors by phone or in person at the door. Unfortunately another type of scam occurs when seniors are lonely, ill and vulnerable in the nursing home. Unscrupulous nursing home staff members or their cohorts have access to residents for eight to twelve hours a day several days a week, becoming a new “best friend.”

Beware of long-lost family members who suddenly befriend Grandmother in her hour of need in the nursing home when their real intention is to manipulate her checking or savings account.

Signs of Financial Abuse

Typically families rely on a trusted attorney to handle a senior’s legal affairs. Beware of a sudden change to a new attorney or accountant; the change is probably due to persuasion or coercion in order to obtain control over finances. This might result in a new will or change in trusts in favor of a staff member.

Watch for unauthorized use of a credit card or ATM account. While a senior in a nursing home will probably no longer have cards, someone residing in an assisted living center might still be using credit cards for occasional purchases.

Worse yet, major withdrawals can occur from checking, savings or other kinds of accounts or property can be transferred in unexpected ways.


It is a difficult and delicate matter to protect financial control of an elder family member’s estate, especially when family members live some distance away. Consult with an attorney who is well-versed in elder law for legal and ethical ways to handle a senior’s finances, especially those who are in nursing homes.

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