Picture of Donna Harlow

When you’re caring for an aging adult, whether it’s a parent, friend or client, it can be tough to know when it’s time to step in when it comes to finances. Though your main role as a caregiver may be around helping with daily hygiene activities, grocery shopping and driving, it’s important to keep an eye out for unusual financial activity, as senior adults can often become the target of financial fraud.

How to spot red flags

Has the individual:
  • Shown reduced financial capability, understanding
  • Mentioned missing money, incurred recurring charges for the same thing
  • Made unusual investments or investments not understood
  • Made recurring or unusual donations to new charities
  • Talked about new friends involved in running errands to bank or grocery
  • Displayed unusual increase in spending habits
  • Failed to pay bills
  • Failed to take required minimum distributions from investments
  • Been a repeated victim of financial abuse or scams

If you have identified any of the above as issues, it may be time to have a conversation about financial caregiving. Even if your loved one doesn’t need one right now, it’s a good idea to identify who they would like to choose as a financial caregiver. This will allow them to have the tools in place when they need assistance.

Financial institutions offer many services to allow an individual to assist with managing another’s finances. Seniors and their caregivers can utilize these tools to protect finances and identify unauthorized activity:

 Account setup

There are different types of account ownership that would be appropriate for a caregiver and loved one, such as Joint, Authorized, Sole Owner, Agent, Power of Attorney, Guardian and Payable on Death (POD). Each type allows different access, in some cases full access. Knowing and understanding these different types is important before making any changes to bank accounts.


An alternative to changing ownership (or possibly in addition to) is using technology to allow an individual to assist with monitoring accounts and paying bills. Most financial institutions offer online banking (OLB) services that can help.

A few products and tools Old National Bank offers are:

  • Shared Access: In the online banking system, access options include:
    • View Only - “View only” permission can be used to help review a senior’s activity, but not conduct any activity on the account.
    • Make transfers among accounts – The senior can allow someone else to only make transfers between his or her accounts.
    • Make bill payments – The senior can allow an individual to make payments from his or her account to pay bills. This is the highest level of access he or she can allow and should only be provided with caution to trusted individuals.
  • OLB alerts: Use OLB to set alerts and receive email or text notifications when large dollar withdrawals are made, or there is a low balance. When setting up the alert, you can help your loved one designate the specific large dollar amount or low balance amount.
  • Debit/credit card monitoring: Use debit/credit card alerts to monitor for unauthorized transactions.

Legal documents

Seek advice of an attorney to create appropriate estate planning documents such as, Power of Attorney, Will/Trust, and Advanced Directives. If these documents are not affordable, assistance may be available through a county legal aid society, state legal assistance program or regional council on aging. 

If you are a financial caregiver, or an individual planning for your future, now is the time to consider what your options may be for assistance with your finances. Talk with your financial institution about what options may be available to you.

Schedule a Money Safety for Seniors Workshop.

Learn how to detect, protect against and report the financial exploitation of seniors. Old National offers this course to community groups at no cost.

Donna is a Senior Loss Prevention Analyst, CFE and part of the Fraud Prevention and Investigations Department at Old National. This group is responsible for investigating and responding to bank-related fraud situations, as well as training and educating associates and clients about fraud.

This content is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice or indicate the suitability of any product or service for your unique circumstances. You are encouraged to consult with a qualified legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professional based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.