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As our population ages, a growing percentage of Americans are entering retirement. Many have devoted years of hard work and investment toward establishing a nest egg with which to enjoy the twilight of life. Sadly, the assets of elderly retirees are frequently targeted by unscrupulous groups or individuals, especially when there is a diminished physical or mental capacity.

Those who plunder the hard-earned resources of the elderly are typically well versed in ways to gain their trust. They use a “silver tongue” to appeal to the victim’s sense of wellbeing, security, charity, or religion to convince them to part with their money. The results can be financially disastrous.

There are countless methods employed by practitioners of elder financial fraud. These include:

  • Contractor Fraud – Scaring people into unnecessarily spending on homes to correct “code violations” or avoid structural catastrophes. Bait-and-switch pricing for ordinary maintenance and repairs. Taking money for work that is never, or shoddily, performed. Often accompanied by threats or improper perfecting of liens.
  • Investment Schemes – Get rich quick ploys, Ponzi schemes, long-term annuities. High-fee or excessive trading to generate unreasonable sales commissions.
  • Property Title Fraud – Tricking folks into an unintended mortgage or sale of real estate. Reverse mortgage scams. Mortgage foreclosure actions are typically threatened or initiated.
  • Charitable Contributions – Marketers expertly appeal to the good-hearted nature of the target to secure donations. The more that is given, the more the giver is solicited; repeat the process.
  • Insurance Scams – Selling unneeded or cost-ineffective policies for coverage against accidental death and dismemberment, emergency medical transport, or terrorism. Convincing policyholders to convert or trade life insurance policies.

When an elder is financially exploited, it is not always readily apparent. They often do not recognize the problem, especially if the offender has befriended them and continues to play a role in their lives. On the other hand, they fear that if they tell someone, steps might be taken to limit or restrict control over their affairs. It is essential for close friends or family members to be on the alert for signs that their elderly loved one has fallen prey.

Some of the indications that a senior citizen is being financially manipulated are:

  • Improbable explanations of finances
  • Illogical structural or cosmetic changes to their home
  • Large withdrawals or checks frequently written to “cash”
  • Past due or cancelation notices on utilities
  • Frequent requests for personal loans
  • Credit cards suddenly charged to limits
  • Inexplicable sale or donation of possessions
  • A vast increase in the volume of mail

Once financial exploitation is discovered, proactive steps should be taken – first to stop it, and then to minimize the chance of reoccurrence. This can be difficult, especially when the victim cannot be convinced that a problem exists, either due to denial or decreased mental faculty. A report of investigative findings that impeaches the character or fitness of offending organizations or individuals might help in that regard. A complaint to local law enforcement can also be effective, especially if there is clear proof of criminal activity.

Otherwise, helpful guidance can be obtained from the Adult Protective Services office in your community, or from the National Center for Elder Abuse (, which offers a wealth of advice and resources.

If you have a family member whom you believe is suffering from financial exploitation, call the compassionate professionals of ResultQuest® at 713-781-9040. We will help you to evaluate the impact and formulate a strategy to respond to the challenge.