Elder Financial Abuse

Elder Abuse Information

Elder abuse occurs when a person, age 60 or older, is subjected to physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological or emotional abuse, misuse of money or property, or neglect.

Elder abuse is a serious problem in the U.S. and can happen to anyone, regardless of a person’s sex, race, religion, ethnic or socioeconomic background. It does not discriminate. The abuse can happen anywhere; their own home, a family member’s residence, hospital, assisted living center or nursing home. The abusive behavior can be done by family members, friends, caregivers, healthcare providers and complete strangers.

Elder abuse will not stop on its own and many victims are too scared or embarrassed to report it. We must all be vigilant to recognize the signs of abuse, various types of elder abuse, how to report the crime and obtain help.

There are many types of abuse that fall under the category of elder abuse, including:

Physical Abuse

  • Occurs when an older adult is intentionally hit, kicked, slapped, burned, pushed
  • Causes bodily harm
  • May also include being restrained or locked in a room or house

Sexual Abuse

  • Any touching, fondling, intercourse, or any other unwanted sexual activity with an older adult
  • Older adult is forced, feels threatened, is unable to understand what is happening or unable to consent to activity

Psychological/Emotional Abuse

  • Can be verbal or non-verbal
  • Examples include verbal assaults, constant criticizing, humiliation, name-calling, harassment, intimidation, and non-verbal behavior such as keeping the individual from seeing close friends and family


  • Caregivers do not meet the older adult’s basic needs which are food, water, shelter, and clothing
  • Withholding medication and needed medical or psychiatric care
  • Not providing proper hygiene or emotional and social stimulation
  • Abandonment

Financial Abuse

  • Stealing money, forging checks, using credits cards, and making purchases that do not benefit the older adult
  • Making name changes to bank accounts, wills, life insurance documents, house titles without the older adult’s permission or under false pretenses

What Are Some Signs of Elder Abuse?

Physical Signs

  • Poor hygiene
  • Unsanitary living conditions
  • Unexplained bruises
  • Broken bones or sores
  • Weight loss and dehydration
  • Medical issues being ignored

Emotional Signs

  • Mood changes
  • Depression
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Becoming withdrawn from activities they once enjoyed
  • Increased anxiety, grief, and fear

Financial Signs

  • Changes in bank transactions and spending habits
  • Unexplained withdrawals for items or services they do not normally use
  • Bills going unpaid
  • Unauthorized signatures on checks or legal documents
  • Suspicious behavior when being questioned by the bank or some other authority
  • Becoming anxious when confronted about finances
  • Developing a secret relationship with someone online

Below are Some of the More Common Scams Affecting Older Adults

IRS and Social Security Scams

  • Scammers call claiming to be from a government agency and claim you may owe back taxes, your immigration status is void, or your social security payment /Medicare benefits are going to be cut off
  • They may threaten arrest, hefty fines and even deportation
  • To fix the matter they pressure you into giving them your social security number, credit card and bank information or even ask you to send a wire transfer to rectify the situation

Construction/Home Repair Scams

  • Scammer will show up at your doorstep saying they were in the area and noticed your home needs repairs
  • They may state the repairs are urgent and they offer to help you by performing the work immediately at a lower price than other contractors
  • Most likely they are not insured workers and are scam artists for a living
  • They pressure you for full payment up front for their time, labor and supplies but then disappear without completing the job or doing poor work, never to be heard from again

Romance Scams

  • The internet is a popular way for single individuals, including older adults, to date and form relationships
  • Scammers will set up fake profiles and contact several individuals looking for anyone they can deceive with their lies
  • Older adults are a prime target because they are known to be financially settled, have good credit and may be more vulnerable due to being isolated or recently losing their spouse or friends
  • Scammers prey on this vulnerability and begin requesting money be sent to them for emergency purposes or planning a trip to visit.
  • Once you supply them with monetary funds the request for more will not stop – this goes on until many older adults have diminished their life savings for a person and romance that was never real

Grandparents Scam

  • Scammer calls an older adult pretending to be one of their grandchildren
  • The situation is usually an emergency or time-sensitive in nature
  • The caller states they need money sent to them as soon as possible due to being in the emergency room, been arrested and need bail money, or car is in need of repairs
  • The caller stresses to the victim to keep this a secret so they do not get in trouble with their parents
  • Scammer is using the older adults love and compassion for their family to manipulate them

Computer Tech Support Scam

  • Older adult receives a call from someone claiming to be from tech support
  • Caller states there is an issue with their computer that needs to be addressed quickly before all data is lost
  • They claim the computer is infected with a virus and they can help fix the computer
  • Their goal is for you to hand over control of the computer so they can steal any financial and sensitive information available
  • They may even try to sell you virus protection to clean up the so-called virus on your computer – nothing is provided but you hand over your credit card details to the scammer

What Should You Do if You or a Loved One is a Victim of Elder Abuse?

  • Elder abuse will not stop on its own, if you are a victim or believe you know someone who is a victim of elder abuse, you need to step in and speak up.
  • If you think someone is in life-threatening danger, contact 911 right away.
  • Help is available to victims and their families.

For More Information About Elder Abuse and Where to Get Help:

Responding to Elder Abuse in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Department of Aging (Statewide Elder Abuse 24 Hour Hotline) – 1.800.490.8505

Lehigh County Aging and Adult Services (County 24 Hour Hotline) – 610.782.3034

Eldercare Locator - 800.677.1116

National Center on Elder Abuse - 855.500.3537

National Elder Fraud Hotline - 833.372.8311