Brochure: Financial Abuse of Seniors - It's Time to Face the Reality
No one should ever pressure, force or trick you into giving away your money. This brochure will explain some of the signs of financial abuse and how you can prevent it from happening to you or someone you know.
Financial abuse is one of the most common forms of abuse against seniors and frequently goes unreported.
Some types of financial abuse are very clearly cases of theft or fraud. Others are more difficult to identify, such as friends or family members pressuring, forcing or tricking you into lending or giving them money or possessions.
The result, however, can be devastating-emotionally as well as financially.
Some examples of financial abuse could include
A person you trust:
- pressures you to lend him or her money or possessions;
- misuses or steals your money or posessions;
- cashes your cheques without your permission;
- forges your signature;
- misuses power of attorney;
- pressures you to make or change a will, or to sign legal documents that you do not fully understand; and
- shares your home without paying a fair share of the expenses when requested.
Why is financial abuse so common?
Sadly, financial abuse is one of the most common forms of abuse against seniors in Canada. Seniors often know and trust the person mistreating them-a family member, friend, neighbour, relative, care provider or support worker. The abuser may depend on the senior for money, food, a place to live.
Who are the abusers?
It is not uncommon for seniors to be financially abused by someone they know or love. When this is the case, some do not look for help because of a sense of loyalty.
What can I do about it?
There is nothing shameful or embarrassing about telling someone that you are being abused by a person you trust. You might be afraid that the abuser will fight back, or that you will have to move from your home or community.
Help is available. Find out more by calling 1 800 O-Canada (1-800-622-6232) or by visiting Canada.ca/Seniors.
Review this list for possible signs of financial abuse:
Learn the signs
- I have felt pressured into giving away money or purchasing things that I do not want or need.
- Someone has taken my money or cashed my cheques without my permission.
- Someone frequently borrows money from me and doesn't repay it.
- I have noticed withdrawals from my bank account or charges to my credit card that I cannot explain.
- I have received overdue bills that I thought were paid.
- Someone has prevented me from making my own financial decisions or accessing my money.
- Someone has not managed my finances as we agreed.
- I have felt forced into changing my will or signing legal documents that I don't fully understand.
- I have felt pressured into sharing my home or car without fair compensation.
- Keep your financial and personal information in a safe place.
- Keep track of your accounts and legal documents.
- Keep a record of financial transactions and changes to legal documents.
- Read contracts and other documents carefully.
- Tell someone if you think you are experiencing financial abuse: a friend, family member, health care or social services professional, legal or financial advisor, or member of your faith community or local authorities.
- For major decisions involving your home or other property, get your own professional legal advice before signing any documents.
- Keep in touch with a variety of friends and family so you don't become isolated.
Remember that your money and property belong to you. They are not your family's or anyone else's.
Stories of financial abuse
My son told me if I didn't sign a cheque for him that he would stop bringing my grandchildren to visit. I didn't want to lose contact with my family, so I signed it and gave it to him. Now he is asking for more.
You have a right to control how your money is being spent. If a situation makes you uncomfortable, trust your instincts-take a step back and think before you make any financial decisions.
What you should know:
- No one should ever pressure you for money.
- If you're being forced into a situation you're uncomfortable with, speak to someone you trust.
Bank card fraud scenario
My daughter sometimes asks to borrow my bank card to do my banking for me. Last month when my statement came, I noticed there were purchases from designer clothing stores that I don't remember making. When I asked my daughter about it she just laughed and said I was getting forgetful, but she's wearing new clothes.
Fraud committed by a family member is still fraud. If someone is piling up debt in your name, you could end up having to pay it all back. It could also hurt your credit rating.
What you should know:
- Examine your bank and credit card statements every month for purchases you don't remember making. You are protected from errors or fraud, but you have a limited time to report problems.
- Keep your bank and credit cards safe and your personal identification numbers (PIN) secret.
Investment fraud scenario
My neighbour said he knew about an opportunity that would double my money if I invested right away. so I gave him a lump sum. That was a year ago, and I haven't received a cent. When I ask him about the investment, he doesn't answer my questions.
After retirement, you may depend more on your investment income. If someone tells you about an opportunity to make a lot of money quickly with no risk, ask questions. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
What you should know:
- Watch out for anyone who pressures you to decide right away about an investment opportunity.
- Be on your guard when someone promises a quick profit.
- Get more information and consult a financial services professional before investing.
If you think you are experiencing financial abuse, ask for help. If you don't have a family member or close friend who can help you, ask your bank or credit union, your local seniors centre, or even your care provider or health care professional where you can go for advice and help.
For more information and a list of resources in your province or territory, call 1 800 O-Canada (1-800-622-6232) or visit Canada.ca/Seniors.
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