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What Are Some Red Flags Of Financial Abuse?

* I generally write using the pronouns he/him when referring to narcissists, but females are just as likely to be narcissists or exhibit narcissistic traits. So please don't think just because article uses the word him or he that it could not be a woman in that same role.

Sadly, instances of financial abuse have skyrocketed in recent years, and as only a fraction of these transgressions are discovered, it’s safe to say that there are many more instances going unreported each year. So, What Are Some Red Flags Of Financial Abuse?

What Are Some Red Flags Of Financial Abuse?

Perhaps the scariest aspect of this form of abuse is that it can be carried out by anybody close to a vulnerable person, in any number of ways, making it a hard-to-spot act of malicious manipulation.

Yet, for those willing to put the effort in to safeguard their vulnerable loved ones, there are a few red flags you can keep an eye out for, but before we get into the warning signs, let’s discuss what financial abuse actually is.

What Is Financial Abuse?

As financial abuse takes so many forms, it’s a rather broad term that encompasses four discrete instances of asset-based abusive behavior:

  • The stealing of money or property
  • Fraud
  • Money or property-related pressure
  • The misuse of money or property

Financial abuse typically occurs when there is a significant power imbalance between two or more parties due to one of them being in a vulnerable state.

For example, senior citizens are by far the most common victims of this form of abuse, as their abundance of wealth and assets combined with their isolation and diminishing faculties makes them an easy target for those looking to take advantage.

However, financial abusers don’t target the elderly exclusively. Any vulnerable individual and sometimes even perfectly well individuals can become the victims of this financially driven abuse. Those most at risk include:

  • People with learning disabilities
  • Victims of abuse
  • People who are medically unwell
  • People who take medication that impacts their mental or physical faculties in some way

Who Are The Culprits Of Financial Abuse?

Anybody with a significant connection to the target can instigate a financially abusive relationship. This includes…

  • Spouses
  • Immediate family
  • Distant family
  • Friends
  • Neighbors
  • Legal advisors
  • Financial advisors
  • Carers 
  • Relative strangers who manipulate their way into somebody’s life

9 Red Flags of Financial Abuse

With the basics covered, let’s get into the nitty-gritty. If you stay vigilant and look out for the following warning signs, you may be able to nip financial abuse in the bud, protect your loved ones, and, of course, pursue legal action against the culprit or culprits.

Red Flag #1: Money Missing From Accounts

If you have access to your loved one’s bank or savings accounts, or perhaps just their financial records, it’s essential that you monitor any activity.

Should you notice an unusually large withdrawal or payment into another account, it could be a sign of foul play.

There of course could be a number of reasons for a sudden influx of spending, so talk to your loved one about their financial situation, and ask if there have been any big expenses in their life as of late.

If the potential victim no longer has the faculties to explain the situation, it’s best to contact those in charge of their financials and request an explanation.

Red Flag #2: No LPA Registration

LPA stands for lasting power of attorney.

When someone expects to lose the mental capacity to make decisions on their own behalf, they will register LPA under someone’s name, so whomever they choose can handle important affairs for them when they’re no longer lucid or are otherwise incapable of handling matters themselves.

Now, you may be thinking that LPA is problematic in itself, as it grants access to the financial accounts and property of the potential victim, and, while this position of power can absolutely be abused, it’s often worse if LPA is never filed.

No LPA means that people could be unlawfully taking matters into their own hands, and in their diminished state, the victim is powerless. 

Red Flag #3: Evasive Financial Manager

Should the person has chosen to manage the financial affairs of someone who is no longer capable of doing so themselves be evasive or uncooperative, it’s a sure sign that something isn’t quite right.

Those allocated the position of power need to be available to handle financial and legal matters on their dependent’s behalf, so if they’re intentionally trying to shirk their responsibilities whilst maintaining their position of power, they likely have something to hide.

Thankfully, they can’t run forever. Keep your eye on them and get the authorities involved ASAP. Once they’ve been cornered, a swift investigation will bring any anomalies to light.

Red Flag #4: Unexpected Alterations To Deeds

What Are Some Red Flags Of Financial Abuse?

Sudden and unexpected changes to property titles that previously were in the potential victim’s name is another BIG warning sign that something is awry.

Of course, it’s not unheard of for vulnerable people to sign over property to trusted parties, as it can be practically and financially beneficial in a number of ways, but if the party named in the new deed seems a strange or downright impossible choice, you’re right to be concerned?

They may well have manipulated or coerced the victim into signing the property over to them.

Red Flag #5: Late Life Alterations To Wills

Again, it’s not uncommon for people nearing the end of their lives to alter their will, as they’re reckoning with all their earlier decisions all over again to make sure everything will be carried out in accordance with their current wishes.

But, if the victim’s physical or mental state is in decline, they may well have been coerced or manipulated into making the changes in question.

Red Flag #6: Third-Party Ingratiation

Another thing to look out for is somebody moving into the home of the potential victim, or otherwise forcing themselves into the victim’s life.

While it’s possible the invading party is simply trying to help someone in need, if this humanitarian spirit has come out of the blue, the chances are that they see your loved one as an opportunity to cash in.

If the invading party is living rent-free in the victim’s abode or seemingly has no reason to suddenly be so involved with the victim’s life, it’s time to take action.

Red Flag #7: Lack Of Money For Essentials

If your loved one seems to be a little strapped for cash all of a sudden and is unable to afford essentials such as rent, utility bills, and food, it’s crucial that you take a look at their financial records.

Granted, if they’re paying for care, funds can run dry pretty quickly, but if it comes as a surprise to both you and your loved one, it’s possible someone has been taking advantage of their vulnerable state — It could even be the carer!

Red Flag #8: Withdrawal From Familial Or Social Influence

A common tactic of any abuser no matter the form their abuse takes is to isolate the victim from their family and friends, thus giving themselves comprehensive control of the situation.

From this point on, their manipulation will meet little to no resistance.

Red Flag #9: Denied Access To Accounts

If someone can no longer access their accounts, it could be that a manipulative party has seized control of them.

Final Thoughts 

Financial abuse may be on the rise, but by staying vigilant, remaining close to your vulnerable loved ones, and intervening when financial discrepancies are discovered, you can ensure that those you hold dearest are kept safe.

Emergency Numbers

Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) is the nation’s largest organization fighting sexual violence: (800) 656-HOPE / (800) 810-7440 (TTY)

988 Mental Health Emergency Hotline: Calling 988 will connect you to a crisis counselor regardless of where you are in the United States.

911 Emergency

The National Runaway Safeline: 800-RUNAWAY (800-786-2929)

Self Abuse Finally Ends (S.A.F.E)

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Trauma & Child Abuse Resource Center

Domestic Violence Shelters & Resources

Futures Without Violence

National Center for Victims of Crime

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

National Network to End Domestic Violence

National Sexual Violence Resource Center

Prevent Child Abuse America

Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center (SPARC)

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) HelpLine: 1-800-950-NAMI, or text “HELPLINE” to 62640. Both services are available between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. ET, Monday–Friday

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255); www.suicidepreventionlifeline.orgOr, just dial 988

Suicide Prevention, Awareness, and Support: www.suicide.org

Crisis Text Line: Text REASON to 741741 (free, confidential and 24/7). In English and Spanish

Self-Harm Hotline: 1-800-DONT CUT (1-800-366-8288)

Family Violence Helpline: 1-800-996-6228

American Association of Poison Control Centers: 1-800-222-1222

National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependency: 1-800-622-2255

LGBTQ Hotline: 1-888-843-4564

National Maternal Mental Health Hotline: 1-833-TLC-MAMA (1-833-852-6262)

The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 678678. Standard text messaging rates apply. Available 24/7/365. (Provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning—LGBTQ—young people under 25.)

The SAGE LGBT Elder Hotline connects LGBT older people and caretakers with friendly responders. 1-877-360-LGBT (5428)

The Trans Lifeline is staffed by transgender people for transgender people:
1-877-565-8860 (United States)
1-877-330-6366 (Canada)

Veterans Crisis Line: https://www.veteranscrisisline.net

International Suicide Prevention Directory: findahelpline.com

The StrongHearts Native Helpline is a confidential and anonymous culturally appropriate domestic violence and dating violence helpline for Native Americans, available every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CT. Call 1-844-762-8483.

‘Find a Therapist’ Online Directories


UK & Republic of Ireland

  • Emergency: 112 or 999
  • Hotline: +44 (0) 8457 90 90 90 (UK – local rate)
  • Hotline: +44 (0) 8457 90 91 92 (UK minicom)
  • Hotline: 1850 60 90 90 (ROI – local rate)
  • Hotline: 1850 60 90 91 (ROI minicom)
  • YourLifeCounts.org: https://yourlifecounts.org/find-help/

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