Some Warning Signs of Elder Fraud


The Wall Street Journal has reported that financial scams against the elderly are becoming so commonplace that the National Council on Aging calls them the “crime of the 21st century” (“Scams to Watch Out For,” WSJ). It describes investment scams against baby boomers (those over age 50) as being “rampant.” (“Boomers Wearing Bull’s-Eyes,” WSJ, Kelly Greene). The Wall Street Journal has now published a brief but helpful article entitled “Red Flags of Elder Fraud.”

According to the National Council on Aging, some warning signs that a senior citizen may be a victim of a financial scam include:

  • Suspicious account activity, such as unusual withdrawals, new people added to the account or uncharacteristic use of an ATM or credit card.
  • Unpaid bills despite adequate income (especially for essential services like utilities, mortgage, or medical).
  • A caregiver who tries to restrict access to a loved one.
  • Piles of mailings for sweepstakes, magazine subscriptions or so-called free gifts.

Other warning signs may include:

  • Significant losses in investment accounts that are suggestive of high-risk activity.
  • High volumes of activity in investment accounts that also suggests imprudent investing.
  • Purchases of complex or exotic investments.
  • Large investments in unusual ventures affiliated with someone who purports to be close to the senior citizen.
  • The existence of investments that the senior citizen doesn’t understand or is unaware of.

If such warning signs exist, they should be reported to your state’s Adult Protective Program, which is responsible for investigating elder abuse, neglect and exploitation. The report can be made anonymously. The web site to locate your state office is If investments are involved, your state’s Securities Department should also be contacted.

Anyone who believes that they or a loved one has been scammed should act promptly to notify investment firms, banks and credit-card companies, cancel cards linked to stolen information, reset personal identification numbers, contact knowledgeable professionals and gain understanding and control of the situation quickly.

Page Perry is an Atlanta-based law firm with over 170 years collective experience protecting investor rights and fighting Wall Street greed.