Do you know how to report elder financial abuse? Many people have no idea what to do when they discover or suspect that their aging loved one has been financially exploited. It isn’t enough to go to an attorney to recover the losses. You want to report the crime for what it is, and make sure that the perpetrator is brought to justice.
For that to happen, you must report elder financial abuse to the appropriate authorities. You have a lot of options for how to report financial exploitation of seniors depending on the situation, but it is important to understand your options and have an attorney guide you on the best place to make your report.
What is Elder Financial Abuse?
When many people today think of elder financial abuse, the popular television series Better Call Saul comes to mind. In the show, which is one of the most watched on Netflix of late, attorney Jimmy attempts to bring a nursing home that has been scamming their residents to justice. Although this is the most publicized type of financial abuse of seniors, it is not necessarily the most common.
Elder financial abuse can be simply defined as the financial exploitation of an adult over the age of 65. Financial exploitation generally refers to an individual using a vulnerable person’s assets for their own profit or personal gain. This can include anything from an orderly stealing a resident’s checkbook to someone misrepresenting themselves in order to solicit funds or other profit.
Identifying Financial Abuse in the Elderly
Recognizing financial abuse in seniors is not always an easy thing to do. It is very important that family or close friends keep an eye on their aging loved ones, whether they are in a nursing home, an assisted care facility, or even their own home. It is important to talk to your aging loved ones regularly, and make sure they know they can call you anytime they are being pushed to fork over cash.
In general, look for these signs:
- The senior is suddenly asking for people to buy things for them that they should be able to buy for themselves.
The elderly person is confused about where their money was spent.
- Spending habits abruptly change.
- Depression is common in all forms of elder abuse, and elderly people who have been financially exploited may isolate themselves out of embarrassment.
The state of California offers this helpful resource for identifying and preventing elder financial abuse: https://www.aba.com/advocacy/community-programs/consumer-resources/protect-your-money/elderly-financial-abuse.
What Kinds of Actions Can Be Considered Financial Abuse? Who are the Perpetrators of Elder Financial Abuse?
There are many kinds of scams and activities that can result in financial elder abuse. The most common are:
- Online scams: These include misleading online advertising as well as email scams.
- Home improvement scams: Roofers, plumbers, landscapers, or other home service and home improvement contractors may solicit unnecessary repairs or upgrades to take advantage of seniors. Others will demand an upfront payment and disappear.
- Financial exploitation through Power of Attorney: It is unfortunate that many people given the power to handle financial matters on behalf of the elderly often take advantage of them for their own gain.
- Nursing home scams: Some nursing homes may be taking funds from residents under false pretenses, or for services that they never receive.
- Theft: Orderlies, maids, and even friends and family members may steal from the elderly when given the opportunity.
How to Report Financial Abuse of the Elderly & Prevent Future Cases from Occurring
If you suspect that elder financial abuse is occurring, it is important to report it as quickly as possible. Where you will report the abuse first depends on what form the financial abuse took and by whom it was perpetrated. However, there are some general steps you can take regardless. First, alert your elderly loved one’s financial institutions of the suspected financial abuse. Banks are required to report cases of elderly financial exploitation to the authorities, and they will be able to see evidence of it in their financial records.
You should also report the financial abuse to the authorities, particularly if fraud was involved. After a scare, real or imagined, use the opportunity to open a dialogue with the seniors in your life so that they can be aware of what to look for and contact you before making another mistake.
When Should I Report Suspected Elder Abuse?
You should report suspected elder abuse when you have some evidence or suspicion of the abuse. You should ideally have some type of solid evidence that points to the financial exploitation or fraud. With that evidence in hand, you should report as soon as possible. The more you delay, the less likely that you will be able to recover your losses. The statute of limitations on elder financial abuse reporting is 4 years.
Elder Financial Abuse Reporting Requirements
There is some minimum information that must be provided when you report financial abuse of the elderly to the proper authorities. This information includes:
- The elder’s name, date of birth, address, and other identifying information.
- The present location of the elder if it is not their main address.
- Your own name, address, phone number, and place of employment.
- Details of the incident including date, time, and location.
- The type of financial abuse being reported.
- The suspected abuser’s name and identifying information, if available, as well as physical description and contact details.
- Your own observations, beliefs, or evidence you have gathered.
Where To Report Financial Abuse Of Elderly
An attorney can best help you find the right place to report financial abuse, but here are some of the most common places you will need to report elderly financial abuse in addition to banks and financial advisors as mentioned above.
Adult protective services is your best bet when it comes to reporting elder abuse of any kind. They will investigate the claims of financial abuse and take the necessary steps to instigate criminal charges.
Local law enforcement should be contacted if fraud has been committed.
The FCC offers the ability to report online and telemarketing scams here: https://www.fcc.gov/inspector-general/hotline.
If your loved one is in a nursing home and you suspect financial abuse on the part of the home or their employees, report your suspicions to the Ombudsmen. This is a third party liaison between the residents and their families and the managers of the facility.
Who Can Get Help from an Elder Financial Abuse Attorney?
Getting help from an elder financial abuse attorney is a good idea, particularly if you’re not sure how to gather enough evidence to make a report with the proper authorities. Even if you do not have any control over the elderly person’s finances or estate, you can still contact an attorney on their behalf. The experts at Stone & Sallus can analyze your case and determine the next steps.