It’s painful to see an elderly person who has spent a lifetime accumulating enough savings to enjoy old age, fall prey to an unscrupulous relative, neighbor or stranger, who drains their bank account in the blink of an eye. Unfortunately, it’s all too common.
Financial abuse caused elders to lose upwards of an estimated $2.9 billion in 2009, according to a MetLife Mature Market Institute study. And this number could be conservative. Many elders, ashamed at having been taken in by a beloved niece, a “nice” neighbor, or a slick con artist, are often too embarrassed or misguidedly loyal to report the financial abuse. Other elders simply do not realize they’re being abused.
That’s why family and friends of elderly loved ones – along with seniors themselves – should take the time to recognize the signs of abuse, learn how it can be prevented, and know what to do when it occurs.
What is Elder Financial Abuse?
Financial abuse occurs when a person steals, mismanages or conceals an elderly person’s funds, property or other assets for personal gain.
Common Victims of Elder Financial Exploitation?
White women between the ages of 70-89 are at the highest risk for being financially abused, according to the MetLife study. But it can happen to any elder, particularly those who are isolated, lonely, or suffering from cognitive decline.
Financial Abuse Examples
- Theft of cash, jewelry or other property
- Unauthorized use or misuse of credit cards/ATM cards
- Forged signatures on checks
- Using financial power of attorney for personal gain
- Internet or telemarketing scams
- Coercing elder into changing will, deed or titles.
- Overcharging elder for goods and services
- Ordering unnecessary medical tests or equipment to boost Medicare bills
Signs of Elder Financial Abused
- Unpaid or late payment of bills, even though elder should have sufficient funds
- Unusual or unexplained withdrawals or transfers between bank accounts
- Sudden changes in elder’s financial condition
- The presence of a new “friend” who seems to have unusual influence over the elder
- Suspicious changes to wills, powers of attorney, deeds or titles
- Missing jewelry, cash or other pieces of property
- Elder is evasive or anxious when discussing finances
- Elder acts unusually submissive or fearful in the presence of a caregiver, friend or relative.
Elder Financially Abuse Prevention
- Cancel all unused or unnecessary credit cards
- Use direct deposit for Social Security and other checks
- Never provide personal financial information or your Social Security number to a stranger, especially if he or she is offering a “gift” or something “free.”
- Never sign any document without having someone you trust review it first
- Never give your ATM card to a family member to buy things for you; give cash instead
- Don’t share your ATM PIN number with anyone
- Review finances with an elderly loved one on a monthly basis.
- Call Adult Protective Services (1-800-510-2020) if you suspect you or an elderly loved one is being financially abused.
Contact an Elder Abuse Lawyer
If you or an elderly loved one has lost money, property or other assets due to suspected abuse, call an financial elder abuse lawyer. An good lawyer can assess the strength of your case and seek compensation for your losses.
The elder financial abuse lawyers at the Appel Law Firm LLP are dedicated to helping elderly victims of financial crimes in California recover their lost money, property or assets.