Here’s how you can protect your parents without traveling

The world’s older population has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only are their health risks higher, so are their financial risks.

One major concern is financial elder abuse. Isolation from sheltering in place contributes to an older adult’s vulnerability. When you can’t visit them, it’s harder for you to detect warning signs.

Elder financial abuse has been called “the crime of the 21st century.” Five percent of seniors say they have endured some form of financial mistreatment, losing a reported $2.6 billion annually. The actual figure is likely much higher, because only 1 in 44 cases are reported, according to the National Adult Protective Services Association.

One big reason few cases are reported: In 9 of 10 cases, the abuser is a friend, family member or caregiver. Victims are often embarrassed or don’t want to cause trouble for loved ones.

Thus, it’s vital more than ever that you keep a careful eye on your parents and their finances during this crisis to help prevent them from being victimized. It may be more difficult now, with mobility restricted, so make the extra effort to keep in touch with Mom and Dad.

Common signs of financial elder abuse include unexpected, unauthorized or unexplained:

  • Changes in bank account balances or banking practices.
  • Decisions being made on the elderly person’s behalf by a new friend or acquaintance.
  • Withdrawals from financial accounts.
  • Disappearance of money or valuable possessions.
  • Transfers of assets to a family member or friend.
  • Changes to a will or other important financial documents.

If you recognize warning signs or suspect your parents are victims of financial elder abuse, address the issue right away. Ask them directly if friends or caregivers have asked them for money or approached them about investment opportunities. If your parents answer yes, or if they are reluctant to say what’s going on, contact local authorities.

Our 34 years of providing financial advice has proved to us that money is a family affair. If broaching the subject of money with Mom and Dad makes you uncomfortable, let us help. Contact an Edelman Financial Engines financial planner to schedule a videoconference or telephone meeting with the entire family.