There are a number of signs that elder abuse is occurring. (Courtesy of AARP)
There are a number of signs that elder abuse is occurring. (Courtesy of AARP)

One in five Americans age 65 or older has been affected by elder financial abuse and two-thirds of these crimes are committed by family members, friends and trusted associates, statistics show.

In March, District officials took additional steps toward helping financial advisers protect their senior citizen clients from fraud with the approval of the Senior Safe Act that encourages advisers and their firms to report the financial exploitation of senior citizen clients by protecting advisers from liability and the violation of privacy laws.

Further, to help fight the problem, D.C.’s Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking participates in the D.C. Elder Abuse Prevention Committee and partners with other city agencies including the D.C. Office on Aging and Adult Protective Services to raise awareness about elder abuse through community engagement and education.

Now, officials from Wells Fargo are reminding everyone that remedies to financial elder abuse include simply being aware.

Wells Fargo recently shared the results of its 2018 Wells Fargo Elder Needs Survey that asked older residents about the financial issues they’re facing. The organization also released an Elder Financial Abuse Protect Guide to outline steps on how seniors can protect themselves.

“When seniors don’t take intentional steps to plan for the longevity of their later years, they are posing themselves a greater threat,” said John Allen, Wells Fargo’s D.C. region president. “The question isn’t ‘will I ever be targeted?’ it is ‘when?’ Which should then be followed by ‘Am I prepared to stop it?’”

With outside data revealing that the elder population is now the fasting growing in the United States — with baby boomers turning 65 at a rate of 10,000 a day — seniors and their caretakers must recognize the impending threat, he said.

In its Elder Financial Abuse Protect Guide, Wells Fargo suggested several actions seniors can take to protect themselves, including talking with trustworthy family members about financial plans; update and have legal documents in place like wills, advance healthcare directives and powers of attorney; sign up for direct deposit; do annual credit report checks; add automatic bill pay to accounts and automatic alerts of large transactions sent to a trustworthy individual while also keeping checks and credit cards locked away.

Wells Fargo officials also suggest seniors avoid isolation through social activities.

Officials said family members should keep vigilant by looking for red flags such as sudden, atypical or unexplained withdrawals, wire transfers or disbursements, and abrupt or unexplained changes to legal documents.

Loved ones should also look out for other signs such as unpaid utility bills, confusion about accounts and relationships with new “best friends” and “sweethearts,” disheveled appearance, forgetfulness, and changes to normal routine.

“Elder abuse can rob older adults of their independence and ability to age with dignity in their community,” said Steve Gardner, communications director for AARP Pennsylvania. “AARP is committed to strengthening the Older Adults Protective Services Act to provide additional protections against crimes targeting vulnerable older adults, including financial exploitation.”

Anyone can report elder abuse by calling the 24-hour statewide elder abuse hotline at 1-800-490-8505, or by contacting their local Area Agency on Aging and state law protects those who report suspected abuse from retaliation and civil or criminal liability; all calls are free and confidential, officials said.

For the complete Wells Fargo guide to elder protection, go to

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Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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