The Stark Truth About Elder Financial Abuse - Skip to content

The Stark Truth About Elder Financial Abuse


Senior fraud is often begins close to home


The holidays are the time for giving and enjoying some holiday cheer. They’re also the time for increased financial fraud, much which begins at home.


Some adult children are especially anxious to get mom and dad’s inheritance. Others are so impatient that they take matters into their own hands- in effect receiving an early advance on their elder parent’s bequest.


This tragic drama of elder abuse plays out thousands of times each day while many regulators and lawmakers continue to portray financial and mortgage professionals as the typical perpetrators. After all, regulating these rapacious salespeople requires an army of regulators and enforcement officers.


So where can these heartless thieves typically be found? It turns out you don’t have to look far. Like most things, it begins at home. Michael Doll cites the National Council on Aging’s startling statistics which reveal nearly 90% of all financial crimes committed against elders are committed by family members. The familial hall of shame ranks the most likely players as adult children, grandchildren, and then nieces and nephews.


Many have witnessed the financial abuse inflicted by immediate family members. One series of incidents in my own neighborhood comes to mind in which a step-grandchild stole thousands of dollars from his elderly grandmother who was suffering the early effects of Alzheimer’s disease. “Grandma. Can I ‘borrow’ some money?” The problem is he never repaid her as her faltering recollection was that her trusted grandkid would have certainly paid back the last loan.  He did not. And the deception continued for the better part of a year until a family member became aware of the scam.


In the process of completing the application and financial assessment, reverse mortgage professionals become acquainted with the homeowner’s financial assets. What red flags should they watch for? Here are just a few indicators of potential abuse.


  • An adult child who is unusually interested when their parent will receive loan proceeds and how the money will be distributed.
  • The presence of a child or grandchild living in the home who is abusing illegal or prescription drugs.
  • The homeowner has little or no understanding of their own financial situation.
  • The homeowner is showing early signs of diminished mental capacity and confusion.
  • Financial paperwork, checkbooks, and bank statements are disorganized and strewn about the kitchen or common areas.
  • A non-medical assistant or living aid who seems overly interested in the reverse mortgage transaction.
  • Signatures on other documents appear to be written in another person’s hand.
  • The senior appears to be isolated from friends and other family members.

As it’s said, ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’. Here are some suggested financial abuse prevention tips.


  • Involve all children of the borrower when possible.
  • Ensure all adult children know how to contact you.
  • Ask if anyone has been managing their finances.
  • Ask for details about any accounts showing late payments or delinquencies. See if the homeowner was aware of the unpaid installments.

Financial abuse awareness is crucial to help our older homeowners steer clear of family members plundering funds from what is perhaps their largest and last financial asset.


How have you spotted financial abuse and what did you do in response? Leave your answers below in the comment section. 


Editor in Chief:
As a prominent commentator and Editor in Chief at, Shannon Hicks has played a pivotal role in reshaping the conversation around reverse mortgages. His unique perspectives and deep understanding of the industry have not only educated countless readers but has also contributed to introducing practical strategies utilizing housing wealth with a reverse mortgage.
Shannon’s journey into the world of reverse mortgages began in 2002 as an originator and his prior work in the financial services industry. Shannon has been covering reverse mortgage news stories since 2008 when he launched the podcast HECMWorld Weekly. Later, in 2010 he began producing the weekly video series The Industry Leader Update and Friday’s Food for Thought.
Readers wishing to submit stories or interview requests can reach our team at:

Leave a Comment


  1. I’m a “mandatory reporter” under state law. My experience is that once a report is made, nothing happens.

    I see people of all ages with “no understanding of their own financial situation” and disorganized financial paperwork.

    University of Denver researchers claim we reach peak mental capacity for financial dealings in our 50s. This means that every HECM borrower is dealing with reduced mental capacity.

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