Fraud against the elderly

Elder financial abuse spans a broad spectrum of conduct, including:

  • Taking money or property.
  • Forging an older person's signature.
  • Getting an older person to sign a deed, will, or power of attorney through deception, coercion, or undue influence.
  • Using the older person's property or possessions without permission.
  • Promising lifelong care in exchange for money or property and not following through on the promise.
  • Confidence crimes are the use of deception to gain victims' confidence.
  • Scams are fraudulent or deceptive acts.
  • Fraud is the use of deception, trickery, false pretence, or dishonest acts or statements for financial gain.
  • Telemarketing scams. Perpetrators call victims and use deception, scare tactics, or exaggerated claims to get them to send money. They may also make charges against victims' credit cards without authorization.

Who are the perpetrators?

Family members, including sons, daughters, grandchildren, or spouses. They may:

  • Have substance abuse, gambling, or financial problems.
  • Stand to inherit and feel justified in taking what they believe is "almost" or "rightfully" theirs.
  • Fear that their older family member will get sick and use up their savings, depriving the abuser of an inheritance.
  • Have had a negative relationship with the older person and feel a sense of "entitlement".
  • Have negative feelings toward siblings or other family members whom they want to prevent from acquiring or inheriting the older person's assets.

Predatory individuals who seek out vulnerable seniors with the intent of exploiting them. They may:

  • Profess to love the older person ("sweetheart scams").
  • Seek employment as personal care attendants, counsellors, etc. to gain access.
  • Identify vulnerable persons by driving through neighbourhoods (to find persons who are alone and isolated) or contact recently widowed persons they find through newspaper death announcements.
  • Move from community to community to avoid being apprehended (transient criminals).

Unscrupulous professionals or businesspersons, or persons posing as such. They may:

  • Overcharge for services or products.
  • Use deceptive or unfair business practices.
  • Use their positions of trust or respect to gain compliance.

Who is at risk?

The following conditions or factors increase an older person's risk of being victimized:

  • Isolation.
  • Loneliness.
  • Recent losses.
  • Physical or mental disabilities.
  • Lack of familiarity with financial matters.
  • Having family members who are unemployed and/or have substance abuse problems.
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