Skip to main content

S.A.F.E. (Safety Awareness for Elders)

The red flags of financial abuse of an elderly loved one.

Portrait picture of Three ladies sitting on a couch taking a selfie

Speak Up for Those You Love

Financial elder abuse is more common that you think. Many elderly adults are abused in their own homes, in relatives’ homes, and even in facilities responsible for their care. If you suspect that an elderly person is at financial risk it’s vital to know the signs and speak up.

What is elder financial exploitation?

Elder financial exploitation is the illegal or improper use of an older person’s funds, property or assets.

Estimates of annual losses to older adults ranged from $2.9 billion to $36.5 billion.

Financial abuse can take many forms, ranging from investment scams, bogus lottery schemes and stolen jewelry to identity theft, credit card misuse and forged checks. Sadly, most perpetrators of financial abuse aren’t strangers.

In a 2017, updated in 2019 report by the CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) the following key facts, trends, and patterns revealed in these Suspicious Activity Reports—or SARs—filed by banks, credit unions, casinos, and other financial services providers:

  • Financial Institutions reported $1.7 billion in suspicious activity. That is actual losses combined with attempts.
  • The average loss per Financial Institution filer was $16,700.
  • 1/3 of the individual that lost money were 80 years or older.
  • Checking or Savings had the highest monetary losses.
  • Losses were greater when the elder person knew the suspect.
  • Nearly 80% of the suspicious activity reported resulted in monetary loss.

Common Scams Include:

  • Romance Scams – Typically money to someone outside the U.S. who is supposed to be the elder person’s fiancé.
  • Exploitation by Family Member/fiduciary – People the elder person trusts exploits them for funds.
  • Theft by Caregiver – A person hired to take care of the elder member uses the relationship to steal card information to then steal money.
  • Money Mule – “person in need scam”. Money is sent overseas to help someone in need.

It’s important to have good conversation with only the elder member when possible. Discuss the use of funds, particularly funds exceed normal activity that should occur.

Just 1 in 44 elder financial abuse cases are ever reported, according to the National Adult Protective Services Association.

Speak up about elder financial exploitation.

If you believe that you or someone you know is a victim of financial exploitation, contact your local adult protective services (APS) agency. You can find out how to reach your APS office from the Eldercare Locator at or by calling 1-800-677-1116.

Report scams or fraud to the Federal Trade Commission.

Working with older adults.

We’ve gathered resources from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to help you, whether you serve older adults or family members managing the finances of a loved one.

CFBC's Tools and Resources for Older Adults