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Is your parent a 'prime' target for financial abuse?

Americans between 70 and 90 are still the wealthiest group in the U.S. It's no surprise that they are also prime targets for financial exploitation and abuse.

According to experts, a prime target is:

--A woman usually between the ages of 80 and 89.

--Men who have recently lost a spouse.

--A person living alone who may require help with either health care or home maintenance.

--A person who is lonely and vulnerable.

These individuals are at an even higher risk during the holidays.

The majority of abusers and exploiters are strangers. Sometimes they are telemarketing scammers after credit card and Social Security numbers.

After that, it is friends, neighbors and yes, even family members - most often a son or son-in-law. Sometimes it is even professionals who may have gambling or other financial troubles.

Most of the time the exploiters or abusers are looking to steal money, jewelry or property. They usually have access to their victim. They are able to gain the elder's trust and confidence. They will then use their relationship with them to steal from their victim.

Following are some red flags to watch for in your loved one:

--Lack of care, even if they have the funds to pay for help.

--Changes in spending habits or in banks.

--Unusual use of ATM or credit cards.

--Change in will, power of attorney or other financial documents.

--Unpaid bills.

--New "friends."

--Disappearance of valuables or money.

--Bruises, trips to the ER, broken bones.

--Missed appointments.

--Isolation from family, old friends, community activities.

--Fear of a caregiver.

Remember, financial abuse is a crime. Most often the one being abused is being cared for by their abuser.

They don't want to report them because of fear or they are ashamed to admit that they are being taken advantage of.

They may also be afraid that they are going to be put in a nursing home and that is not what they want.

Stay connected with your family members. Financial abuse most often takes place when people are isolated from those who care about them.

Keep them informed of scams that you hear about in the news or through friends. Make sure they have a power of attorney and other legal documents in place.

Have a trusted family member become better educated on their financial situation and where all of their legal papers are.

Pay close attention to their physical health and cognitive status. Declines in either may make them more vulnerable to these fraudsters.

If you suspect someone is being taken advantage of, report it to authorities.