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Protecting Clients & Families from Elder Financial Abuse

  • By Robert D. Bordett, CFP®, CDFA®
  • |
  • August 27, 2019

Elder abuse is on the rise, including financial abuse. Many seniors, regardless of their income bracket, are at risk as people over age 50 control over 70% of the nation’s wealth.

The definition of financial exploitation varies between jurisdictions, but is broadly defined as the illegal or improper use of the property, assets, or funds of people 60 and older.

Financial Elder Abuse Can Include:
  • Identity theft
  • Credit card fraud
  • Abuse of power of attorney
  • Annuity scam
  • Using undue influence to cheat seniors out of property or assets

Many times, the abuse goes unreported, as victims may be embarrassed that they fell for a scam.

Several years ago, I had a client in her 80s for whom I had prepared taxes for each year for almost 20 years. Though still very astute and sound, she fell for a scam. She didn’t tell anyone until one day, after the fact, when she admitted to writing a check for $10,000 to a group she had heard about on the news, which resulted in the FBI contacting her to let her know that she had been scammed.

Common Reasons the Elderly Become a Target:
  • Lack of familiarity with consumer rights
  • Unawareness of scams
  • Loneliness or isolation
  • Medical conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s
Signs that a Client or their Family Member May Be Being Exploited:
  • Transferring assets to a new friend
  • Changes in spending habits
  • Excessive reimbursements to caregivers or family members
  • New authorized signers on bank accounts
  • Missing property
  • Large withdrawals from bank accounts
  • Unpaid bills or disappearing bank statements

Advisors, watch for these important signs and, where appropriate, consider communicating with the loved ones of your elderly clients to help prevent the spread of elder financial abuse.

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Author Bio

Financial advisors face few challenges as emotionally charged and potentially difficult as clients trapped in family conflict. Just ask Robert D. (Bob) Bordett. Whether it’s marital separation or divorce, the care of elderly family members or death and estate settlement, an advisor’s knowledge of a client’s finances is never enough; industry professionals must be able to help families set conflict aside, seek agreement and preserve valuable assets. A Certified Financial Planner and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, Bob Bordett has devoted much of his career guiding couples, families and business partners through difficult situations to arrive at fair and practical solutions. As Senior Vice President of Atlanta’s Consolidated Planning Corporation, Bob specializes in mediation, collaborative divorce, divorce planning and financial planning. He maintains a private practice, Collaborative Practice and Mediation Services, Inc., applying Alternative Dispute Resolution methods while serving as a financial neutral. Bob is also a Registered Mediator and Arbitrator with the Georgia Commission on Dispute Resolution. A recognized expert on financial issues impacting divorce, Bob has published widely, appeared on CNN, spoken at a variety of conferences and led seminars across the country. He has held leadership positions in a number of industry associations including the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, the Institute of Certified Financial Planners and the Family Mediation Association of Georgia. He is a founding member of the Academy of Professional Family Mediators and serves on the board of the Professional Mediation Board of Standards. But perhaps most importantly, Bob brings genuine compassion, commitment and a desire for positive outcomes to every client’s unique circumstances. Bob frequently partners with Marsha Schechtman, LCSW, who brings a deep understanding of family dynamics plus expertise in communication strategies to her work. For a representative list of Bob’s speaking topics, please visit the Speaking page under the Services section.