In the 2020 Wells Fargo Elder Omnibus Survey, nearly all seniors 60 and older (97%) acknowledged that older people are susceptible to financial scams. In fact, nearly half (47%) already knew someone who had fallen victim.
Despite this, most (69%) continue to believe that while other seniors are susceptible, they themselves are not1.
People who are living alone in their later years, or those who do not have trusted individuals nearby, are especially vulnerable. When someone doesn’t feel they are at risk, they are unlikely to take precaution.
An estimated $2.9 to $36.5 billion is lost every year to financial exploitation of older adults.2
It’s easy to see why elderly individuals are attractive targets for financial abuse. They may have significant assets and usually have a regular source of income such as Social Security or a pension. Victims often feel embarrassed or humiliated, silly or incompetent, or fear further isolation or repercussions from abusers—all reasons why these types of abuse often go unreported.
Protecting others by knowing the warning signs
You can help protect yourself and others from financial fraud by knowing what to look for. Here are just a few of changes in money management patterns:
It is estimated that in up to 90% of elder financial exploitation cases, the abuser is a family member or trusted person.3 Yet most older investors in our survey (68%) think a stranger is the most likely perpetrator.4
- Reluctance to discuss financial matters previously discussed as a matter of course
- Sudden, atypical, or unexplained withdrawals, wire transfers, or disbursements
- Unpaid utility or other bills; confusion about accounts, funds, and transactions
- Abrupt or unexplained changes in legal documents
- Signatures that seem suspicious or forged
It’s also important to be aware of social, behavioral, and physical changes that might include:
- Relationships with new best friends and “sweethearts”
- Onset or worsening of illnesses and disabilities; decline in mental capabilities
- Disheveled appearance, forgetfulness, and adjustments to normal routine
- Missing possessions from the home or residence
How can you protect yourself?
Make sure these important documents are up-to-date and let a trusted person know where to find them:
Download the Wells Fargo Advisors Guide (PDF) to identifying and protecting against elder financial abuse
- Durable Power of Attorney
- Health Care Power of Attorney
- Living Will
- Revocable Living Trust
It’s also important to:
- Change account numbers, phone numbers, credit/debit card numbers, and passwords if your information is compromised.
- Review credit reports, account statements, and bills carefully for any unusual activity or charges.
- Send duplicate statements to a trusted person for review.
- Contact your Financial Advisor to discuss the importance of naming a Trusted Contact and to obtain a form.
Wells Fargo Advisors is committed to helping identify, intercept, and investigate incidents of suspected elder and vulnerable adult financial abuse. Our employees are trained and equipped with tools and resources to help identify and address risk factors that may hint at elder financial abuse or exploitation, then help deal with the suspected abuse in a professional and confidential manner.
Report elder financial abuse
If you see warning signs of vulnerability or abuse, don’t be afraid to report it.
Eldercare Locator eldercare.acl.gov
Contact a state agency National Center on Elder Abuse
To learn about common elder fraud scams visit: aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/
1 2020 Wells Fargo Elder Omnibus Survey.
2 Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Suspicious Activity Report of Elder Financial Exploitation: Issues and Trends Report. February 2019.
3 According to National Adult Protective Services Association 2018.
4 2018 Wells Fargo Elder Needs Survey