I previously wrote about the financial exploitation of the elderly but I just wanted to review some things that are key to recognizing the signs. I also wanted to mention prevention tips.
What is financial exploitation of the elderly or elder financial abuse? Simply put, it is when a person takes money or property from an elderly person for their own financial benefit. In the state of Florida, its law (FSS 825.103) “states that when someone maliciously takes the property of an “elderly person,” they are committing exploitation”.
It is estimated that five million elders may be the victims of financial exploitation annually. The perpetrators vary. Most of these incidents are by family members who are in daily contact with the victim and estranged family members who suddenly are interested in the victim’s well-being.
According to http://www.ncea.aoa.gov, “older individuals may be targeted merely because they possess more assets, such as savings, annuities and retirement accounts, stocks and bonds, insurance policies, and property than younger people. Those with cognitive impairments, mental health conditions, or physical disabilities may be dependent upon others (family members, friends, formal and informal caregivers, or court appointed representatives) for assistance in making financial decisions or carrying out daily transactions, and therefore may be even more vulnerable to theft, exploitation or undue influence.”
Here are some examples of elder financial exploitation:
- Preventing the elder from having access to his/her money and bank accounts
- Forging the elder’s signature on checks and other documents
- Adding an additional name to the elder’s bank account and withdrawing funds without permission of the elder
- theft of money or property
- Theft of ATM cards or credit cards
- Deceiving or forcing an elder to sign a financial document, such as a will, a loan application or some other documents Selling an elder unnecessary or overpriced goods or services
- Stealing an elder’s identity or financial data in order to steal the elder’s money or property
- Deceiving an elder to invest in an overpriced scam
- Deceiving an elder into borrowing money on a home with terms that guarantee he or she will default and lose equity
- Improperly using an elder’s power of attorney or conservatorship.
- Cashing checks without permission
- There are also other signs as well such as bank statements and canceled checks no longer come to the elder’s home, unpaid bills, notices to discontinue utilities or eviction notices, unusual activity in the older person’s bank accounts including large, unexplained withdrawals, frequent transfers between accounts, or ATM withdrawals, absence of proof about financial arrangements and outrageous explanations given about the elderly person’s finances by the caregiver.
It is important to remember that whenever there is an economic downturn, seniors are always the first to be targeted. Here are some tips to protect the seniors’ assets:
- Stay connected. People who live alone and in isolation are most likely to be victims Put your financial affairs in order. Financial good housekeeping will make you less vulnerable
- Beware of needy people. People with histories of substance abuse are most likely to be abusers
- Choose caregivers and other service people carefully. Don’t allow people into your house who aren’t trustworthy
- Keep valuables in a safe place. If there’s nothing worth stealing in your home, you’re less likely to become a victim.
- Sharing the same DNA does not guarantee that relatives will not swindle one out of money or real estate.
- Make sure that your power of attorney documents are on file with the bank and/or investment company
- When receiving a phone call from someone you are not familiar with, exercise caution.
There is another issue in regards to elder abuse that is seldom discussed. Granny snatching is when a senior is moved from one jurisdiction to another jurisdiction with laxer laws. Granny snatching laws vary drastically from state to state. This is another means to isolate the senior from loved ones to be further exploited. I will go into further detail next week about what some states are doing to protect seniors from this heinous act.
As always, report any incidents of elder abuse to the local authorities. The website for the National Center for Elder Abuse is http://www.ncea.aoa.gov and the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse is preventelderabuse.org.
Please feel free to leave your comments and questions.