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Protecting Seniors

Elder abuse is a term referring to any knowing or intentional act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. Elder abuse can show up in families, as a form of domestic violence, but is just as often perpetrated by bad actors.  

North Carolina law protects adults with disabilities of any age from abuse, neglect and exploitation. Abuse, neglect and exploitation can be physical, emotional or financial. The law states that “any person having reasonable cause to believe that a disabled adult is in need of protective services shall report such information.”

Abuse: willful infliction of physical pain, injury or mental anguish, unreasonable confinement, or the willful deprivation by a caretaker of services necessary to maintain mental and physical health.

Neglect: a disabled adult who is either living alone and not able to provide for themselves the services necessary to maintain their mental or physical health (self-neglect), or who is not receiving services from his caretaker.

Exploitation: illegal or improper use of a disabled adult or his resources for another’s profit or advantage.

View more information about long-term care in North Carolina here.

Where to Report Mistreatment:

The local Department of Social Services, Adult Protective Services in the county where the person with a disability or older adult lives.
For additional help, call the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services CARE-LINE toll free within North Carolina at (800) 662-7030. 

You can also report mistreatment to local law enforcement, which includes a local police department and/or sheriff’s office.  

Where to Report Financial Exploitation by Non-Family Members:

Businesses, Companies, or Bad Actors

Attorney General Josh Stein and the Department of Justice are shutting down scams and warning North Carolinians about frauds targeted to seniors. 

Many victims of elder fraud are hesitant to come forward, but our Consumer Protection Division is here to help. If you or a loved one is a victim of a scam, report it to our office online at or by phone at (877) 5-NO-SCAM.

Medicaid Provider and Patient Abuse

The Attorney General’s Medicaid Investigations Division prosecutes fraud, patient abuse, and embezzlement in Medicaid-funded facilities. The office works closely with the Federal and state law enforcement agencies and has recovered over $900 million for the Medicaid program and obtained over 450 criminal convictions in fraud and abuse cases. Report Medicaid Fraud or Patient Abuse Here. 

Preventing Mistreatment:

Law Enforcement

The NC Justice Academy offers a course on Responding to Victims & The Public, with a section on “elderly victims,” including interviewing techniques, financial crimes, and an exercise on procedure for responding to an elderly victim of a phone scam.

Financial Institutions

Financial institutions that suspects that an older adult (65 and older) is the victim of financial fraud must make a report to local law enforcement. In addition, state law now offers extra protections to combat financial exploitation of adults with disabilities and adults 65 and older. Under the law, customers of financial institutions (i.e., banks) can submit a list of persons to be contacted if the institution suspects that the customer is a victim or target of financial exploitation. The institution is also required to report the suspected exploitation to local law enforcement. If the suspected victim is an adult with a disability, the financial institution is required to report to the contact list, local law enforcement, and the county Department of Social Services. 


If you have questions about the laws that protect senior citizens or your legal rights as a senior citizen, contact our Public Protection Section experts at (919) 716-6780 or 

Presentation for seniors on how to avoid scam and frauds and protect themselves online can be requested here.