Preventing Elder and Vulnerable Adult Financial Abuse

Know what to look for to help protect older family members, vulnerable adults, and friends from financial fraud.

In the 2018 Wells Fargo Elder Needs Survey, virtually all surveyed investors and children (98%) agree that older investors are susceptible to scams. But, only one out of ten older investors feel it could happen to them, though one in four say they worry about it.1

An estimated $36.5 billion is lost every year to financial exploitation, criminal fraud, and caregiver abuse. And that’s only for the cases actually reported.2

It’s easy to see why elderly individuals are attractive targets for financial abuse. They may have significant assets and usually have a regular source of income such as Social Security or a pension. Victims often feel embarrassed or humiliated, silly or incompetent, or fear further isolation or repercussions from abusers—all reasons why these types of abuse often go unreported.

Protecting others by knowing the warning signs

You can help protect yourself and others from financial fraud by knowing what to look for. Here are just a few of changes in money management patterns:

Approximately two-thirds of elder financial crimes are committed by family members, friends, or trusted persons.3 Yet most older investors in our survey (68%) think a stranger is the most likely perpetrator.4

  • Reluctance to discuss financial matters previously discussed as a matter of course
  • Sudden, atypical, or unexplained withdrawals, wire transfers, or disbursements
  • Unpaid utility or other bills; confusion about accounts, funds, and transactions
  • Abrupt or unexplained changes in legal documents
  • Signatures that seem suspicious or forged

It’s also important to be aware of social, behavioral, and physical changes that might include:

  • Relationships with new best friends and “sweethearts”
  • Onset or worsening of illnesses and disabilities; decline in mental capabilities
  • Disheveled appearance, forgetfulness, and adjustments to normal routine
  • Missing possessions from the home or residence

How can you protect yourself?

Make sure these important documents are up-to-date and let a trusted person know where to find them:

Download the Wells Fargo Advisors Guide (PDF) to identifying and protecting against elder financial abuse

  • Will
  • Durable Power of Attorney
  • Health Care Power of Attorney
  • Living Will
  • Revocable Living Trust

It’s also important to:

  • Change account numbers, phone numbers, credit/debit card numbers, and passwords if your information is compromised.
  • Review credit reports, account statements, and bills carefully for any unusual activity or charges.
  • Send duplicate statements to a trusted person for review.

Our commitment

Wells Fargo Advisors is committed to helping identify, intercept, and investigate incidents of suspected elder and vulnerable adult financial abuse. Our team members are trained and equipped with tools and resources to help identify and address risk factors that may hint at elder financial abuse or exploitation, then help deal with the suspected abuse in a professional and confidential manner.

Report elder financial abuse

If you see warning signs of vulnerability or abuse, don’t be afraid to report it.


Eldercare Locator
Contact a state agency National Center on Elder Abuse

To learn about common elder fraud scams visit:

1 2018 Wells Fargo Elder Needs Survey.
2 “True Link Report on Elder Financial Abuse.” 2015.
3 Jewish Council for the Aging, National Center for Elder Abuse. Paley Rothman article “Who Commits Elder Financial Abuse and Why Isn’t It Reported?” 2016.
4 2018 Wells Fargo Elder Needs Survey