Elder Abuse Unit

Along with the pleasures of growing older and having more leisure time, senior citizens are also vulnerable to certain crimes. Some criminals prey on seniors, who often have more assets, are more willing to trust others, and may be vulnerable because of loneliness or diminishing physical or mental facilities. Criminals may attempt to exploit that trust, steal a senior’s money, or physically abuse or neglect them.

The District Attorney’s Office is committed to fighting elder abuse and improving the quality of life for seniors. The District Attorney’s Office established the Elder Abuse Unit with a staff specially trained and dedicated to prosecuting crimes against the elderly.

The most effective line of defense against elder abuse remains seniors themselves. By resisting high-pressure sales tactics, taking time to make decisions, and – most importantly – discussing personal matters with trusted friends and loved ones, seniors can often prevent many forms of elder abuse. The information on this web site will help seniors protect themselves by further explaining "elder abuse" and giving tips for its prevention.

Please review this information and discuss it with others. If you are concerned that someone is attempting to victimize you or a senior you know, please call "911" or Adult Protective Services Hotline at (800) 491-7123 or your local law enforcement agency.

Elder abuse is the mistreatment of an elderly person by someone known to the senior. This includes financial abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect. Elder abuse happens everywhere – in poor, middle class, and upper-income households. It is a problem that has no demographic or ethnic boundaries. Because family members or close friends of the senior are often the culprits of financial, physical, and emotional abuse, this abuse is often difficult to discover and to accept.

FINANCIAL ABUSE is the mismanagement of money, property or other assets belonging to a senior. Anyone who has access to your personal information, such as bank account numbers, credit cards, checkbooks, etc. can potentially steal from you. Be careful about whom you trust. You can take steps to protect yourself from financial abuse.

Protect yourself:

  • Cancel all credit cards you are not using
  • Never keep the Personal Identification Number (PIN) for your ATM card in your wallet. If you need to write it down, be sure to keep it in a secure place
  • Never give your credit or ATM cards to a family member or a friend to buy things for you. Whenever possible, give them cash or reimburse them with a check
  • Try to balance your checkbook or have a trusted family member or friend do it for you on a monthly basis. Immediately inform your bank or credit card companies of any activity that does not appear to be your own
  • Report financial abuse to the Adult Protective Services Hotline by calling (800) 491-7123 or by calling your local police department.
  • The Curtailing Abuse Related to the Elderly or C.A.R.E. Program can also help with elder consumer fraud through advocacy. For more information, please contact C.A.R.E. at (800) 476-7506

When to suspect you or someone you know may be a victim of financial abuse:

  • You detect unusual activity in bank accounts – such as numerous withdrawals or attempts to withdraw a large sum of money
  • A friend or caretaker asks you for a loan and tells you to keep it a secret. A need for secrecy can be a warning sign of an intent not to repay the loan
  • You see your bills piling up when payment is the responsibility of your caretaker
  • You see changes in your will or power of attorney though you are unable or unwilling to make such changes
  • You lack amenities, such as clothing and grooming items, although you have the means to pay for these items

PHYSICAL ABUSE is the infliction of bodily injuries on an elder. Seniors or their loved ones should immediately report physical abuse to law enforcement by calling "911" or Adult Protective Services Hotline by calling (800) 471-7123. Keep a list of emergency numbers you can call in the event that someone in your home physically abuses you.

When to suspect a senior may be a victim of physical abuse:

  • Obvious lacerations, abrasions, fractures, welts, bruises, discoloration, or swelling
  • Pain or tenderness on mere touch
  • Burns caused by cigarettes, ropes or other bonds
  • Detached retina, bleeding, or scalp wound
  • Elder becomes withdrawn or protective of the suspect

EMOTIONAL ABUSE can result from verbal assaults, threats, intimidation, humiliation, or isolation and can cause mental and emotional trauma. Verbally threatening and abusive treatment, and other acts of rage are not acceptable behavior, even if carried out by a son or daughter or family friend. You can report such psychological abuse to Adult Protective Services at (800) 471-7123. Understand that such intimidating and hurtful conduct is not your fault.

When to suspect a senior may be a victim of emotional abuse:

  • Appears depressed and not himself/herself
  • Unusual mood changes and anger
  • Fear of being touched or approached by others
  • Seems withdrawn and unusually introverted or afraid

NEGLECT is the failure by a caregiver to provide the senior with basic needs. This includes food, shelter, medical assistance, personal hygiene products, heat or air conditioning. Such neglect should be reported. Adult children, especially unemployed or those with a criminal history, may neglect their elder parents. Be leery of giving an adult child with a history of emotional or criminal problems too much control over your money or your life.  

When to suspect a senior may be a victim of neglect:

  • The elder feels isolated by a caretaker and is unable to speak freely or spend time with others
  • A caretaker fails to assist with personal hygiene or in providing clothing for the elder
  • A caregiver has a history of violence, or alcohol or drug abuse
  • The senior shows signs of dehydration or malnutrition
  • The elder has sudden weight loss
  • The elder does not have necessities, including eyeglasses, dentures, prostheses, hearing aids, canes, walkers, or other critical items

Another form of neglect is self-neglect. Self-neglect is the inability of an elder who does not have a caretaker to provide for himself/herself. Self-neglect is NOT a crime. However, seniors can receive services and assistance from Adult Protective Services at (800) 471-7123.

Important: Often victims of elder abuse can be abused in more ways than one. For example, an abuser may hit the elder (physical abuse) in order to convince him or her to turn over money to the abuser (financial abuse).

Helpful Contact Information:  

Adult Protective Services

 (800) 471-7123

Elder/Dependant Adult Abuse Hotline

(800) 491-7123

C.A.R.E. – Consumer Fraud

(800) 476-7506

Long Term Care Ombudsman (abuse in facility)

(951) 686-4402

Office on Aging (Resource info)

(800) 510-2020

Mental Health Helpline

(951) 686-4357

Alzheimer’s “Safe Return”

(800) 572-1122

Contractor’s State License Board

(909) 890-2222

Community Care Licensing

(951) 782-4207

Department of Consumer Affairs

(951) 782-4263

Department of Insurance

(909) 919-2200

UC Irvine Center of Excellence on Elder Abuse and Neglect



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