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Elder Financial Abuse Resources


Older people are attractive targets for financial exploitation because they often have assets and regular income. Recent studies suggest that financial exploitation—the illegal or improper use of an older person’s funds, property, or assets—is the most common form of elder abuse and only a small fraction of incidents are reported. Merck Employees FCU is dedicated to ensuring that our members’ funds are safe and secure and have preventing elder financial abuse a priority. This page provides information and resources to help you navigate as an older person or a caregiver.

Categories of Abuse

Category Who they are What they do How they hope to get away with it
Criminal Fraud Criminals Trick seniors into sending money or providing personal information Try not to get caught by operating anonymously
Exploitation Business, charities, or individuals Use pressure tactics or misleading language to lead seniors into financial mistakes Because they technically did not lie or steal, they claim the senior acted voluntarily
Caregiver abuse Family, friends, or paid helpers Take advantage of the trust relationship to get money from the senior Conceal the activity, or use intimidation or neglect to keep the senior silent

How many older Americans are abused?

Approximately one in 10 Americans aged 60 and older have experienced some form of elder abuse. It is estimated that nearly 5 million older Americans are financially abused each year with the annual loss by victims of financial abuse estimated to be at least $36.5 billion.

Annual Cost of Elder Financial Abuse - Graph


Who is usually impacted by elder financial abuse?

People often assume that those perceived as most vulnerable—widows, the very old, people with severe memory loss—are at the greatest risk, however, studies show that seniors who are young, urban, and college-educated lose more money than those who are not. Seniors described as extremely friendly lose four times as much to elder financial abuse, perhaps because they are approachable and may give strangers the benefit of the doubt. Financially sophisticated seniors lose more to fraud, likely because they are comfortable moving larger amounts of money around. Thrifty seniors lose five times as much to fraud, perhaps because they are enticed by bargains.

Are there signs to look for on an older person’s account(s)?

Small losses are evidence of an underlying vulnerability. What seems like an isolated incident is often the first step in a financial exploitation progression. A senior who lost as little as $20 in a year to exploitation could be expected to lose $2,000 a year to other types of fraud.

Financial Exploitation Examples:

  • Hidden shipping and handling or subscriptions
  • Work-from-home schemes
  • Quack weight loss or dietary products
  • Excessive gifts
  • Misleading financial advice

Criminal Fraud Examples:

  • Con Artists
    • Grandparent scam
    • Nigerian prince emails
    • Fake lottery winnings or government grants
    • Sweetheart scam
  • Identity Theft
    • Opening new credit cards, bank accounts, or payday loans
    • Car title or home equity loans on your property
    • Using card data gained by phishing, in data breach, or from the mail

Caregiver Abuse Examples:

  • Theft by family members or caregivers
  • Rewritten wills or powers of attorney
  • Borrowing money hoping senior will forget
  • Sometimes combined with physical abuse or neglect

How can funds be recovered?

There is little to no opportunity for older people who are defrauded to recover their assets. This can cause those targeted to lose the ability to live independently and may cause a decline in their health. It is estimated that nearly 1 million seniors are currently skipping meals as result of financial abuse.

We encourage you to utilize the resources on the left side of this page and to review some of the below materials, which provide specific information related to elder financial abuse:

Considering a Financial Caregiver

MoneySmart Elder Training

Need help choosing a financial advisor?

Use the following resources to help make your choice.

Check out our recent webinar on preventing Elder Financial Abuse.