Financial Exploitation of the Elderly
Financial exploitation is a fast-growing problem among the elderly. According to the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA), financial abuse affects 1 in 20 older Americans. Seniors lose billions of dollars every year due to financial mistreatment, yet many cases still go unreported.
Older adults are more vulnerable to this type of abuse because they are often isolated, have physical or mental disabilities, or depend on others to help with their daily activities. In the vast majority of cases, seniors are exploited by family members, caregivers, or someone else they trust. These relationships make them hesitant to report the abuse, which has led to significant underreporting.
If you’ve placed the care of your elderly loved one in another’s hands, it’s important to know the types of financial exploitation and ways to prevent it.
Types of Financial Exploitation
Seniors are especially vulnerable to financial exploitation. They typically have more money than other age groups, and this is also the time that many begin developing a reduced capacity to make important financial decisions. There are many ways an abuser will attempt to financially exploit an elderly individual. Here are some of the most common methods used:
- Mishandling Assets: Seniors often choose a power of attorney to manage their assets once they no longer feel confident doing so independently. However, some people may violate this trust to take the elder’s funds and property for themselves.
- Investment Schemes: Abusers may present the victim with a too-good-to-be-true investment opportunity that requires a large sum of money upfront.
- Stealing Property: Someone will take the victim’s belongings without permission, or they might ask to borrow something valuable without the intention of ever returning it.
- Lottery or Sweepstakes Schemes: A scammer may call and claim the person has won a lottery or sweepstakes prize that requires funds upfront to cover taxes and other fees.
- Fake Charities: Someone may impersonate a charity foundation in an attempt to collect a large donation from the senior.
- Life Insurance Fraud: An abuser may actively persuade the victim to make them a beneficiary to their life insurance policy.
- Threats or violence: Family members, friends, or caretakers may use threats or violence to get access to a senior’s assets. They may threaten to withhold care or do other tasks for the individual without payment.
- Identity Theft: Exploiters may use the senior’s social security number, name, birthdate, and other identifying information to obtain credit cards and other loans.
Signs of Financial Exploitation
Uncovering financial exploitation can be challenging, especially if the abuser is skilled in covering their tracks. However, you should be on the alert if you notice:
- Large amounts of missing money
- Missing jewelry and other valuables
- More frequent use of credit cards
- Collection letters for unpaid bills
A senior who has suffered significant financial losses may also feel depressed, ashamed, or angry. They may experience a decline in physical and mental health due to the stress of losing so much money. If your loved one is exhibiting any of these warning signs, they may not want to discuss what happened. However, you should do your best to encourage them to talk about it and to report it so that the abuser can be caught before they have a chance to take advantage of anyone else.
How to Report Financial Abuse
Timely reporting of financial exploitation is the best way to ensure that the abuse stops and help your loved one recover lost funds. There are several different ways you can report, including:
- Police – This will allow you to report the misconduct and file a written report to document the incident. Law enforcement will investigate and take the proper judicial actions against the abuser.
- Adult Protective Service (APS) – If your loved one still lives at home, your county’s APS agency can investigate the abuse, coordinate with authorities, and provide referrals to other agencies that can help them.
- Local Long-Term Care Ombudsman – This agency will investigate incidents that have occurred in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other long-term care residences.
Ways to Protect Against Financial Exploitation
While not all financial abuse can be prevented, there are some things each person can do to minimize his or her risk. Seniors should remember to:
- Avoid giving out personal information like their social security number or checking account number to a stranger over the phone.
- Choose a trusted individual to handle their assets on their behalf. Setting up a power of attorney can help secure their financial future, but selecting the wrong person can be financially devastating.
- Order their credit report at least once a year. If they see accounts they don’t recognize, report them to the appropriate credit bureau to correct the inaccuracies. This can also help someone discover if identity theft has occurred.
- Never make a large investment without consulting a financial advisor or other trusted party, and always ask for a second opinion from a lawyer before signing any financial document.
- Avoid opening a new joint bank account. Family members or friends may encourage seniors to do so in order to “help” them with their finances, but this also leaves the door open for financial abuse.
- Check references before hiring anyone who will be in their home. This should include caretakers, repairmen, landscapers, and other individuals who may do work inside or outside the residence.
- Never leave out letters or other documents with sensitive information in their home. Remember to shred all financial documents or credit card offers before throwing them in the trash.
- Remain socially active with friends, neighbors, and community organizations. Socially active seniors reduce the risk of financial manipulation versus than those who are more distant in their rooms.
Elder Abuse Lawyer in Bakersfield
If your elderly family member was a victim of financial manipulation, the Law Office of Kyle W. Jones will work hard to recover damages and ensure the responsible party is receives justice for their actions. Contact our office today to schedule a free consultation with an elder abuse lawyer in Bakersfield.