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BBB Tip of the Week

Sun., Dec. 18, 2011

Financial abuse of the elderly: People over 50 control more than 70 percent of the nation’s wealth. Some older people are unsophisticated about financial matters. Many seniors have to depend on others for help. Put those facts together and you have the foundation of a problem: elder abuse.

Who may be responsible: According to the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (NCEAP), perpetrators can be family members who have financial problems or feel entitled to the senior’s assets; employees like personal care attendants; strangers in “sweetheart scams;” or unscrupulous businesspeople who overcharge or use their positions of trust to gain compliance.

Red flags: The Spokane Police Department and the Vulnerable Adult Linked Organizational Response (VALOR) unit say warning signs of elder abuse may include:

• Unpaid bills, eviction notices, or notices to discontinue utilities.

• Withdrawals from bank accounts or transfers the older person cannot explain.

• Bank statements and canceled checks that no longer come to the elder’s home.

• New “best friends”

• Legal documents, like Powers of Attorney, which the senior is confused about or doesn’t understand.

• The care of the elder is not commensurate with the size of his/her estate.

• A caregiver expresses excessive interest in the amount spent on the senior.

• Missing property.

• Suspicious signatures on checks or other documents.

• Absence of documentation about financial arrangements.

• Implausible explanations by the senior or caregiver about finances.

• The elder is unaware of or does not understand his or her financial arrangements.

• ATM transactions by “homebound” elders.

• Large or unusual bank transactions.

• Personal loans not repaid to the victim.

What to do: If you are elderly/disabled and are being mistreated, help is available from agencies like The Area Agency on Aging, Adult Protective Services, and the Center for Justice. If you become aware that someone is being abused, you may be their only link to help. Contact VALOR at or (509) 477-5980. NCEAP resources are listed at

More info or to report scams: Visit the BBB at Call (509) 455-4200 or (800) 356-1007.

Holly Doering, BBB editor

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