updated 4/11/2006 6:08:08 PM ET 2006-04-11T22:08:08

The National Center on Elder Abuse points out that financial abuse can take many forms, but generally involves the "illegal taking, misuse or concealment of funds, property or assets."

Linda Eagle, an elder advocate who works with banks, said that some "red flags" that a senior is being victimized include:

  • Sudden changes in an elder's banking practices
  • Uncharacteristic and unexplained withdrawals of large sums by an elder or someone with power of attorney
  • Large credit card transactions or checks written to unusual recipients, including "salesman" or "cash"
  • Abrupt changes in a will or other financial documents
  • Sudden transfer of assets to a family member or acquaintance without a reasonable explanation
  • Complaints of stolen or misplaced credit cards or Social Security and pension checks
  • New signatories added to an elder's account

Bob Blancato, coordinator of the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, said other signs of trouble can include:

  • A recent acquaintance, especially anyone who suddenly takes up residence with an elderly person who had been living alone
  • Redirection of an older person's mail to another address
  • Disconnect notices from utilities — or an eviction notice — against an elderly person who shouldn't be having financial problems
  • A senior's willingness to give out Social Security numbers and other information to telemarketers and other callers

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the government agency that insures bank deposits, recently published a special guide for seniors and their families. The FDIC Consumer News guide "Fiscal Fitness for Older Americans" is available online. To order a free copy, call toll-free 1-888-8-PUEBLO (that's 1-888-878-3256) and ask for the guide or fill out the order form here.

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