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Warning Signs of Abuse, Fraud and Neglect of Seniors

Characteristics of potential victims

  • Advanced age
  • Stroke
  • Dementia or other cognitive impairment
  • Physical, mental or emotional distress
  • Depression
  • Recent bereavements or divorce
  • Social isolation
  • Taking multiple medications
  • Frailty

Characteristics of potential perpetrators

  • In the 16-64 age range
  • Paid or family caregivers of victim
  • Family of victim or known by victim
  • Lives with the victim
  • Perpetrator may have financial, relationship, drug, alcohol or gambling problems

Signs of Abuse or Neglect

Lack of care

  • Evidence of lack of care e.g. lack of clothing, food and other necessities
  • Unkempt home where the victim used to be house proud
  • Untreated medical problems
  • Lack of provisions of services, unpaid bills

Social isolation

  • Discontinued relationships with friends and family
  • Increased dependence on perpetrator
  • Sudden heavy traffic in and out of the home
  • New acquaintances
  • Caregivers or family members having an excessive interest in amount of money being spent on the elderly person
  • Mutual dependence on another
  • Perpetrator acting as gatekeeper

Visits to health care providers

  • Unmet physical needs
  • Missed medical appointments
  • Dropping out of treatment
  • Declining physical and psychological health
  • Defensiveness by caregiver during visits or on telephone and unwillingness by caregiver to leave the victim along during appointments
  • Removing victim from custodial care against medical advice


  • Missing paperwork
  • Missing belongings or property
  • Evasive or implausible explanations
  • Lack of awareness or confusion of the victim of recent transactions
  • The victim being afraid or worried about talking about finances
  • Unpaid bills, late notices
  • Eviction notices
  • Credit card fraud or abuse

Conduct of banking transactions

  • Unexplained transfers out of accounts
  • Unusual or unexplained sudden activity
  • Large withdrawal when the elderly person is accompanied by another
  • Frequent transfers or ATM withdrawals
  • Change of address for statements or check books
  • Suspicious signatures
  • Inclusion of another name on bank card
  • Suspicious credit card activity (unauthorized or uncustomary purchases or expenses)
  • ATM withdrawals by housebound person
  • Online banking by person with no internet connection enabled device and no IT experience to make electronic withdrawals
  • Person with no awareness of personal financial affairs
  • Unusual number of checks written to cash

Legal transactions

  • Signing Powers of Attorney when confused or does not understand or remember the transaction
  • Forged signatures
  • Changes in their property, Wills or other documents such as Powers of Attorney, where they are unexpected, sudden or in favor of new acquaintances
  • Sudden appearance of previously uninvolved relatives claiming rights to the victim’s person, affairs and/or possessions.
  • Unexpected changed in legal advisors

Immediate action to be taken

  • Speak to the victim
  • Speak to non-involved family or trusted friend if consent from victim
  • Protect finances and property if possible against further misappropriation
  • If suspicion or evidence of abuse, neglect and/or criminal offense having taken place call the police, County and State Protective Services of Aging and Adult Services, District Attorney, private counsel
  • Consult an Elder Law Attorney for advice to redress issues, prevent, safeguard in advance by drafting appropriate documents such as Powers of Attorney, remove representatives and/or institute Guardianship, etc.
  • Please contact us with any questions or concerns whatsoever