It is a sad fact that our elderly are exposed to financial scams on a near daily basis. Meanwhile, those ensconced in nursing homes and assisted care facilities are more prone to theft. In either case, you should not try to recoup your losses alone.
An Elder Financial Abuse Attorney can assist you on this stressful journey to financial recovery. Elder Financial Abuse Attorneys help you gather evidence of fraud or theft against seniors. They will show you how to gather the evidence and how it must be presented. The Elder Financial Abuse Attorney will also provide counsel, obtain depositions, and represent you in arbitration or court proceedings.
Elder Financial Abuse Attorneys may also be able to help you prevent elder financial abuse in the future by adding security features to your assets. They can also provide you with victim advocacy and recovery resources. These groups may also be able to help you prevent future fraud by teaching seniors how to handle pushy marketers and avoid scams in the future.
Types of Senior Financial Abuse
Seniors over the age of 60 are at an increased risk of financial exploitation due to perceived stereotypes. Seniors are often thought of as feeble-minded, with some suffering from dementia and other mental illnesses that make them more vulnerable. Others are intimidated or confused by modern technology and misleading marketing tactics.
While there are many types of senior financial abuse, they generally fall under two categories: theft and fraud.
Theft commonly perpetrated against seniors
Theft in this case refers to an individual or entity taking unlawful possession of tangible or financial assets. Seniors are at the highest risk of theft when they reside in nursing homes or assisted living housing due to the fact that there are staff members entering and exiting the suite or apartment on a regular basis.
However, the most common type of theft against seniors is identity theft. Identity theft usually occurs when someone uses the senior’s name, date of birth, and social security number to access or open new lines of credit. The perpetrator then spends as much of this money as possible, leaving you to foot the bill.
Theft and use of credit and debit cards is also considered identity theft. Any unlawful use of personal information for personal benefit, including credit card or bank account numbers, falls under the realm of identity theft.
Fraud commonly committed against seniors
Much more often, seniors are prone to various forms of fraud. Fraud refers to any proposed or completed financial transaction based upon false statements, bait-and-switch, and other forms of deception. Most fraud is committed against seniors via phone calls, emails, or postal mail.
The most common types of fraud committed against seniors include, but are not limited to:
- Telemarketing and internet fraud: Phone scammers are the most aggressive, while email scammers are more likely to promise gifts, goods, and services far beyond the reasonable for a “small” fee. In either case, the senior finds themselves paying the scammer, usually for things they never receive.
- Grandparent scams: Phone, email, and postal mail is often used by strangers pretending to be the victim’s grandchild in need of assistance with the ultimate goal of the senior wiring funds.
- Lottery and sweepstakes scams: Scammers trick seniors into believing that they have won a prize and only need to send money for taxes or processing fees. Of course, the senior receives nothing in return. Other scams might make use of email or postal mail to entice “paid entry” into a sweepstakes that has no intention of paying out.
- Charity scams: Many seniors fall prone to scammers pretending to be charities. These are more prevalent after natural disasters.
- Investment schemes: Unscrupulous investors try to sell intentionally confusing or misleading investment products with an exaggerated or completely false promise of financial return.
Far more troubling is that elder financial abuse perpetrated by your own trusted family members. Abuse of power of attorney or guardianship order can also lead to unlawful financial losses.
Elder Financial Abuse Signs?
Financial exploitation of the elderly is very widespread, with an estimated $2.6 billion to $36.5 billion in losses annually. It is difficult to determine the actual annual losses due to financial abuse of seniors, as experts believe the vast majority of cases of elder financial abuse go unreported. This can be due to several factors, including:
- The senior is not aware that financial exploitation has occurred.
- The senior feels powerless to do anything about the financial abuse.
- The senior feels embarrassed about being taken advantage of and so does not seek help.
It is important that loved ones, friends, and family members are all aware of the signs of financial exploitation. While you do not want to take away their independence, you do need to keep a close eye on them so that you can flag any of these common signs of financial abuse:
Unexplained or unusual monetary withdrawals or transfers: Don’t just look for large withdrawals or wire transfers. Some scammers are in it for the long-haul, and there may be many unexplained smaller charges or withdrawals.
Added account holders or beneficiaries: Ask your loved one if they are aware that the individual was added to the account, and if so, why.
Sudden changes to wills and trusts: Seniors may be convinced to make sweeping changes to their wills, trusts, or power of attorneys. These changes can also be made fraudulently without their knowledge.
Missing personal property: Seniors should have few truly valuable items with them in a nursing home or assisted living facility to prevent instances of such theft. If your elderly loved one lives at home and has in-home care, keep an eye on valuables that are in the open.
Sudden changes in behavior regarding finances: Embarrassment or confusion could include any number of odd behaviors, such as:
- A sudden unwillingness to discuss financial matters
- Untreated mental problems that could be exploited by caregivers
- General social withdrawal for fear the source of their embarrassment will be discovered
- Sudden mentions of people and “friends” that you have never heard of before
If you suspect that a senior in your life is being financially exploited, your first step is to contact the appropriate authorities for your state. Each state has its own Adult Protective Services agency. If you’re not sure where to report elder financial abuse in your state, this national resource will guide you.
It is also a good idea to have an Elder Financial Abuse Attorney in your corner to help you gather and present evidence to those authorities. Senior Financial Abuse Attorneys will stick with you through every step of the process to make sure that your loved one or their estate is compensated appropriately.
Elder Financial Abuse: Perpetrators & Risks
Of all elder mistreatment, the financial abuse of seniors is by far the most commonly reported. There are several circumstances that can increase the risk of falling victim to elder financial abuse. Seniors with mental or physical disabilities are at higher risk than those who are strongly independent. Those aged over 80 years are more likely to be victims of financial abuse, as are women.
Seniors who live alone are more likely to fall prone to elder financial abuse, particularly if they require in home healthcare or home maintenance services. This type of financial exploitation could include:
- Massively overcharging for home services like plumbing or HVAC repairs.
- Selling and underperforming unnecessary home maintenance activities.
- Door to door “salesmen” that either overcharge or use pushy sales tactics to force an unnecessary purchase.
- In-home care providers committing theft of property or identity theft.
- In-home healthcare providers overcharging for services.
Seniors who live alone are also more likely to fall prey to telephone scams, because there is no one readily available to ask advice in the moment.
Unfortunately, the majority of elder financial abuse is perpetrated by one’s own family members. Some of the most common ways that family members financially exploit their aging relatives include:
- Abusing the privileges of power of attorney
- Taking advantage of having one’s name on bank accounts
- Withdrawing cash using a stolen atm card
- Stealing checks for the purpose of unlawfully withdrawing cash
- Downplaying or refusing treatment for mental or physical disabilities that allow financial abuse to continue
- Threatening abandonment, violence, or move into a care facility if financial demands are unmet
- Pocketing money meant to purchase needs for the senior.
If you suspect that an elderly loved one is being taken advantage of financially by another family member, don’t hesitate to speak out against them and remedy the situation by pursuing both monetary and criminal reparations.
Why Do You Need an Elder Abuse Attorney?
Whether elder abuse is physical, emotional, or financial, you should have an Elder Abuse Attorney working for you and your loved one. All elder abuse, or even just suspicions of elder abuse, should be reported immediately to your state’s Adult Protective Services agency so that they can pursue criminal charges. However, these agencies are limited in how much they can help you gather evidence and prove your case.
An Elder Financial Abuse Attorney can help you navigate the waters of evidence, discovery, and presentation of such evidence. They will clear up any confusion you have about the process and your role in completing it. They can also give you reasonable expectations of the outcome based on the details of your case.
Financial abuse claim
Elder Financial Abuse Attorneys will also represent you in any arbitration, settlement, or court proceedings for you to receive monetary reimbursement for the losses your loved one sustained from elder financial abuse. While criminal courts will likely require the perpetrator to recompense your loved one or their estate monetarily, civil courts must decide on additional financial compensation.
Living financial abuse victims
If your loved one is still living, you can assist them in getting in touch with an Elder Financial Abuse Attorney, or they can contact one themselves. If you have a power of attorney for the victim of financial exploitation, have it ready to retain services on their behalf.
Deceased financial abuse victims
If the victim of senior financial abuse is deceased before the abuse is discovered, or before the case is settled, any funds recovered will be distributed amongst the estate as indicated by the will or a probate court. Elder Financial Abuse Attorneys can still assist you in these cases.
Defending a financial abuse claim
If you have made a claim of financial abuse against another individual or entity, and that claim is being denied, you may need the assistance of an experienced Senior Financial Abuse Attorney to defend your claim and seek justice.
The law regarding fraud and identity theft are not easily navigable by the average person. Even though your local APS will investigate reports of elder financial abuse, you should not attempt to navigate this or any other legal matter without the guidance of a knowledgeable attorney. Contact available Elder Financial Abuse Attorneys in your state to schedule a consultation.