Exploitation of the elderly has always existed and only in the past few decades has it been recognized as an epidemic as more tragic stories surface into the spotlight.

The three principal areas of concern for seniors, identified in this review, are:

  • Financial crimes by strangers. A variety of fraudulent schemes fall in this category, including Ponzi schemes (investment), false promises of prizes, aggressive telemarketing, schemes involving health products, and fraudulent home repairs.

  • Crime and abuse by relatives and caregivers. This includes the full range of crime and abuse, including physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, as well as financial exploitation and neglect. There is also the undue exercise of control, such as isolating the senior from others or interfering with his or her participation in religious services. This report covered the signs of each type of abuse.

  • Crime and abuse in institutional settings. Here again, there is the full range of abuse and, in particular, physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, as well as systemic abuse.

Much remains to be learned about the prevalence of crimes against Canadian seniors. If you feel that a crime is being committed towards any elderly person, CALL or SUBMIT a TIP anonymously

Our Tip Line is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and receives over 16,500 tips per year.

The Elderly Should NEVER be made to feel Vulnerable

While much has been written about seniors’ “exaggerated” level of fear, a better understanding is required as to why the elderly tend to be more fearful than other age groups. Is this higher fear level due to feelings of physical vulnerability or social isolation? Understanding the sources of this fear can contribute to the development of appropriate interventions as fear itself can isolate seniors, produce mental health issues, and make seniors more vulnerable to financial exploitation.

Be an educated consumer. Fraud is the Number 1 crime against seniors. If you have been defrauded, you may not necessarily be aware that you are a victim. The con artist will take your money and give you little or nothing in return. Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Areas of Concern

  • Financial crimes by strangers

  • Crime and abuse by relatives and caregivers

  • Crime and abuse in institutional settings


This Crime Stoppers program is funded by private donations and fund-raising. The reward money paid out by the program is from the fund-raising and donations made by concerned citizens, organizations and businesses.


Factors Increasing a Senior’s Vulnerability

Home Ownership

Financial Risk-taking Behaviour

Lack Of Knowledge Of Consumer Rights

Lack Of Awareness Of Fraudulent Schemes

A tendency to not solicit advice before making a purchase

Openness to marketing appeals

A reluctance to hang up the phone on telemarketers

Lifestyle Adjustments

Abuse By Relatives and Caregivers

The vast majority of elder abuse incidents occur in the community and not in nursing homes or other residential settings. Elder abuse tends to occur in the home and the usual perpetrators are family members or professional caregivers. Sometimes the abuse is part of a longstanding pattern of physical and emotional abuse in the family. Often, it is related to changes in the physical and cognitive condition of seniors and their growing dependency on family members for care. Offenders are usually considerably younger than the elderly victim. About 40 percent are under 40 years of age and another 40 percent are between the ages of 41 and 59. The majority are males and about 60 percent are relatives of the victim.

There are three general categories of offenders:

  • Adult children, grandchildren, and other relatives;
  • Professional caregivers; and
  • Close friends or others in a position of trust.

The majority of offenders fall in the first category.

Family situations and stresses faced by caregivers may contribute to elder abuse. Conflicts in the family may be created by the senior’s presence. The lifestyle adjustments and financial stresses can be enormous. In some cases, elder abuse is simply a continuation of abuse (e.g., spousal abuse) of a pattern of violence that has been occurring in the family over many years. Spouses and offspring of perpetrators may turn the tables and vent their rage or withhold nourishment from their historic abusers.

Financial Crimes By Strangers

According to the United States Department of Justice, 20 to 40 percent of elder abuse cases involve financial exploitation. Perpetrators may use a variety of tactics to gain the compliance of the victim. They may try to isolate the victim, exert pressure to induce the victim to act quickly, use fear, and discourage them from seeking the counsel of others. Perpetrators of fraud against the elderly tend to be male, although they vary in age, race, social status, and in education. They are motivated both by profit and the sense of power achieved from defrauding a victim of means or one who is well-educated. They are not bound by conventional norms, often have some form of psychological dysfunction, and are able to rationalize their behaviour.

Warning signs of possible consumer fraud include:

  • Large volumes of unsolicited mail congratulating the recipient on winning a prize
  • Numerous unsolicited phone calls offering prizes and investment opportunities
  • Financial difficulties in covering basic expenses when the senior’s income should be sufficient
  • A stranger accompanying an elderly person to the bank and encouraging him or her to make a major withdrawal.

Abuse In An Institutional Setting

Close to ten percent of Canadian women and five percent of Canadian men, 65 years of age and over, live in long term care facilities, including personal care homes, nursing homes, and complex care facilities.

The forms of institutional abuse include;

  • physical abuse and neglect
  • emotional/verbal abuse and neglect
  • financial abuse
  • sexual abuse

Those in institutional care may also experience systemic abuse, which refers to;

  • System-wide practices that produce neglect
  • Sub-standard care
  • Overcrowding
  • Violation of dignity.

One Ontario study surveyed over 1,600 nurses and nursing assistants and found that close to a third had witnessed each of the following:

  • The rough handling of patients in nursing homes
  • Staff verbally abusing patients by yelling or swearing at them
  • Embarrassing comments being made to patients.

In addition, 10 percent witnessed staff members hitting or shoving patients.

The segment of the population at greatest risk of institutional abuse comprises women 85 years of age and over. In Canada, over a third of these women live in an institutional setting, as women tend to outlive their husbands and may not have the health or support required to live in the community. Thus, a high proportion of residents in institutional facilities are women over 85 and they are at greatest risk due to their numbers in these facilities. There is disagreement as to whether impairment is a factor. While physically and cognitively impaired individuals would appear to be more vulnerable to abuse, more active seniors may be less compliant with institutional rules, thereby creating the potential for conflict with institutional staff.