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HELENA, Mont. – This Saturday is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, a day when governments, nonprofits, businesses, and other groups bring attention to the millions of older adults who are abused, neglected, and financially exploited throughout the world.

Montana State Auditor Matt Rosendale encourages Montanans to take some time Saturday to think about the elders in their lives and learn the signs of possible abuse and exploitation.

“The abuse and financial exploitation of seniors and other vulnerable adults is unfortunately a very real and very big problem in Montana,” Rosendale said. “We must all come together to protect the Treasure State’s elders who have worked so hard throughout their lives to create a better future for their children and our great state.”

Montana has the second-oldest state population in the country, and financial exploitation of elders is a growing problem. People over 65 control the vast majority of the country’s wealth after a lifetime of work and saving, making the senior population the prime target for financial abuse.

Rosendale’s office reports that 75 percent of securities fraud cases it has investigated in recent years have involved a person older than 65 and estimates that Montana seniors lose millions of dollars each year due to securities fraud and scams. One of the most egregious examples of this problem was the Richard Brandt case in Miles City, prosecuted by Rosendale’s office under the State Auditor’s criminal justice authority. Brandt stole about $90,000 from a 100-year-old woman and more from other victims.

To combat the problem of elder financial exploitation, Rosendale launched the Senior Financial Exploitation Task Force earlier this year. The new task force brings together the expertise of numerous government agencies to rapidly address exploitation of Montana’s seniors. The task force also created its first regional, rapid-response team, the Southeastern Montana FAST Team located in Billings, last month.

Senior financial exploitation is a highly underreported problem because of shame, fear, and confusion. Older Montanans are often victimized by family members, close friends, and others with access to their financial assets.

Red flags of senior financial exploitation include:

  • A person accompanying an elder shows excessive interest in their finances and is controlling of the elder’s conversations and interactions with other people
  • Elder lacks knowledge about his or her financial status or shows reluctance to discuss finances
  • Elder moves away from existing relationships and toward new associations with other “friends” or strangers
  • Elder displays unusual excitement over a financial windfall or prize check
  • The sudden appearance of previously uninvolved relatives claiming rights to the elder’s affairs or assets
  • Caretaker, relative, or friend begins conducting financial transactions on behalf of an elder without proper documentation
  • Abrupt changes to financial documents, such as power of attorney, wills and trusts, property title, and deeds
  • Uncharacteristic nonpayment for services, which may indicate a loss of funds or access to funds
  • Noticeable changes in a senior’s established banking or financial management habits, especially large withdrawals or attempts to wire large sums of money

Rosendale encourages anyone who suspects financial exploitation or fraud to contact his office at (406) 444-2040 or at