Financial abuse can happen to anyone. As we age and become more dependent on others, we may become more vulnerable to influence and pressure. This can lead to a situation of financial abuse or exploitation. The risk is even higher for those who suffer from cognitive impairment caused by conditions, such as Alzheimer’s or dementia, or by other factors, such as missed medications or short-term medical issues.
A serious financial loss can be devastating in later years as older adults struggle to regain their financial stability. Financial fraud and abuse can cause more than just money problems. It can cause a person to lose trust in others, become socially isolated, and show signs of health problems such as depression and anxiety.
According to Statistics Canada, New Brunswick is second behind Newfoundland and Labrador for having the highest percentage of seniors (22.8 per cent) in Canada. So it’s important that older adults prepare for a firm financial future, learn to recognize the signs of financial abuse, and know how to seek help when they believe they are being targeted or when they see signs of financial exploitation.
What financial abuse of older adults can look like
Financial abuse is any act involving the misuse or abuse of funds or assets. It can include outright theft, abuse of power of attorney privileges, misuse of an older or vulnerable adult’s finances, and targeting older adults to invest in unsuitable or fraudulent investment products.
Financial abuse is the most common form of abuse in older adults in Canada. However, it can be difficult to identify or recognize. Common forms of abuse include:
- forcing someone to sign over power of attorney or control of their assets
- forcing someone to sell their house or change their written will
- depleting savings without the account holder’s knowledge
- spending savings for items that do not benefit the account owner
- withholding someone’s funds, pension cheque or other income
- perpetrating investment fraud
Signs of financial abuse or financial exploitation
Some of the behaviours noted below could be a sign that your loved one may be subject or vulnerable to financial exploitation. You might be concerned if your loved one is:
- being asked by someone you may not know or trust, for access to their bank accounts or to be their power of attorney
- feeling pressure to give money when they know they should not
- not understanding where their money is going or experiencing unusual banking transactions
- suddenly changing their will
- fearing a person or suddenly changing their feelings about a particular person
- changing their appearance or noticeably poor hygiene
- being accompanied by a caregiver who is overly protective
- experiencing a change in ability to perform activities of daily living including self-care, daily finances, or medication management
- exhibiting discrepancy between standard of living and financial assets
Our Money Talks: Financial Abuse brochure can help start a conversation about financial matters that may be concerning you.