Financial Exploitation: Warning Signs

Warning signs In the Home

  • Large amount of new collection notices
  • Utilities that are disconnected for non-payment
  • Lack of food in the home
  • Evidence of physical neglect
  • Missing valuables
  • Missing bank statements, passbooks, or checkbooks
  • Missing Funds

Warning Signs in Person’s Demeanor

  • New Concerns or confusion about their finances, especially missing funds
  • Incessant talk about needing more money
  • Inability to remember making financial transactions or signing financial documents
  • Offering implausible explanations about how they spend their money
  • Fears that they will be evicted or institutionalized unless money is given to a particular person
  • Afraid to answer questions in the presence of another
  • Increasing isolation

Questionable Financial Transactions

  • Increased number of  ATM transactions
  • Large Withdrawals from person’s bank account
  • Signatures on withdrawal forms that are suspicious
  • Amounts and signatures that seem to be written with different pens
  • Concern by banking staff that in-person transactions might be coerced
  • New bank loans or debts

Suspicious Relationships (Caregivers, Friends, Relatives, etc.)

  • New “friends” or relatives who are suddenly spending a lot of time with the person and appear too interested in the person’s finances
  • The person is becoming increasingly isolated and dependent on a single reative, friend, or professional caregiver
  • A caregiver who speaks for the person, in a silencing way
  • The person seems nervous around or afraid if a particular relative, friend, or caregiver
  • Someone inexplicably gains control over the person’s finances

Warning Signs for Financial Professionals

  • Activity deviates from usual banking pattern
  • Request for ATM card or first-time use of ATM card
  • Opening a joint account, changing power of attorney, changing account beneficiary, or opening inappropriate investments
  • New authorized signers on signature cards
  • Mail redirected to new address
  • A stranger asserts right to the customer’s finances
  • Checks written out of numerical order
  • Flurry of bounced checks/overdraft fees or low balances
  • Large withdrawals from previously inactive accounts
  • Change in affect, physical or mental status
  • Customer seems confused about her finances and transactions

What to do when you Suspect Financial Exploitation

Financial Professionals

  • Verify the transactional authority of individual(s) acting on customer’s behalf.  If they show a power of attorney, make sure to verify with the Erie County Clerk’s office that a revocation has not been filed.
  • Speak to the customer alone.  Ask the following questions:
    • Who are you with?
    • How do you know them?
    • How long have you known them?
    • Why are you taking out so much money?
    • What is it for?
  • Ask the “Stranger” questions alone:
    • Do you have the authority to make this transaction?
    • What authority?  Make sure you verify the authority.
    • Check for consistency in explanation
  • Delay the suspicious transaction
  • Contact the bank’s loss prevention and/or legal department for assistance and guidance.
  • Inform a bank manager
  • Contact Erie County Protective Services for Adults at (716) 858-6877 or Center for Elder Law & Justice at (716) 853-3087


If you Suspect Abuse, TAKE ACTION!

More than 1,500 cases of elder abuse are reported each year in Erie County. Many more cases are never reported.

If you suspect abuse and would like legal assistance, please contact:

Center for Elder Law & Justice:


For immediate assistance 24 hours a day, please contact:

Crisis Services Hotline at:


If you suspect someone is being abused, please contact:

Erie County Protective Services for Adults: 


For general information on programs or referrals, please contact:

Erie County Department of Senior Services / NY Connects: 


            In an emergency, call 911

For Elder Shelter screening tool, please visit the Elder Shelter Page located under the "Elder Shelter" tab at the top of your screen