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Financial Exploitation

Financial exploitation of older adults is a growing problem across the United States. Unfortunately, our region is no exception.

Many consider financial exploitation to be a “silent crime.” Silent because there may be few external signs and the victims are too ashamed or embarrassed to report what has happened to them. Other times, the victims are those in the early stages of a dementing illness, such as Alzheimer’s disease, who may not realize what has happened.

The cases of financial exploitation can be reduced if you know how to protect yourself and the older adults you know.

The Definition of Financial Exploitation in Missouri

According to Missouri Statute Section 570-145:

A person commits the crime of financial exploitation of an elderly or disabled person if such person knowingly and by deception, intimidation, or force obtains control over the elderly or disabled person's property with the intent to permanently deprive the elderly or disabled person of the use, benefit or possession of his or her property thereby benefiting such person or detrimentally affecting the elderly or disabled person.

Or put more simply, financial exploitation is when a person takes an older individual’s money or property for their own gain, leaving the older adult without access to it to provide for their own needs.

The statute goes on to say:

Financial exploitation of an elderly or disabled person is a class A misdemeanor if the value of the property is less than fifty dollars, a class D felony if the value of the property is fifty dollars but less than five hundred dollars, a class C felony if the value of the property is five hundred dollars but less than one thousand dollars, a class B felony if the value of the property is one thousand dollars but less than fifty thousand dollars, and a class A felony if the value of the property is fifty thousand dollars or more.

Or put more simply, financial exploitation is when a person takes an older individual’s money or property for their own gain, leaving the older adult without access to it to provide for their own needs. 

The Signs of Financial Exploitation

The signs of financial exploitation may be subtle or blatantly obvious:

  • Numerous cash withdrawals from an older adult’s checking account in a short period of time, especially if inconsistent with previous spending habits. 
  • Signatures on checks, wills, powers of attorney or other documents that look forged, unusual or suspicious. 
  • Several checks that are used out of numerical order. 
  • Reports by the older adult that funds are missing from his or her account. 
  • Someone encouraging, pressuring or coercing the older adult into withdrawing large sums of cash from checking or savings accounts. 
  • An older adult applying for several new credit cards. 
  • An unexpected increase in ATM or credit card usage by an older adult. 
  • An older adult failing to understand recently completed financial transactions. 
  • An older adult making unusual changes to bank accounts. 
  • Having credit card statement sent to someone other than the older adult who is named on the account. 
  • Unexpected or unexplained changes by an older adult in account beneficiaries, property titles, deeds or other ownership documents. 
  • An older adult refinancing a mortgage. 
  • Abrupt and unexpected changes in a will, trust, power of attorney or other legal document. 
  • An older adult who is unexpectedly and uncharacteristically unkempt, forgetful or disoriented. 
  • Or an older adult who is unexpectedly not meeting their financial obligations such as food, utilities, rent or mortgage payments. 

How to Report Suspected Financial Exploitation

Report financial exploitation to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. It operates an 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven-days-a-week hotline for elder abuse, neglect and exploitation at 1-800-392-0210.

Concerns about financial exploitation can also be brought to the attention of local law enforcement.

Any of these agencies can work to investigate your concerns. If they find it likely that financial exploitation of an older adult has occurred, the agency may work with local prosecutors to follow up and prosecute the perpetrators.

More Information

  • Missouri Secretary of State, Securities Division

Financial exploitation and investment fraud go hand-in-hand. The Secretary of State, through the Missouri Securities Division, is responsible for protecting Missouri investors from fraud and ensuring firms and individuals selling securities comply with the securities laws in the state.

Before making an investment decision, Missourians are encouraged to call the Missouri Securities Division for inquiries about broker-dealers, agents, investment advisers, investment adviser representatives or general securities violations. Contact the Securities Division on the toll-free Investor Protection Hotline at 800-721-7996, or for more information, visit the website at www.sos.mo.gov/securities.