Elder abuse is a growing problem in our country, with the National Council on Aging (NCOA) reporting that an estimated 1 in 10 Americans over the age of 60 have been or are victims of some form of abuse. Unfortunately, only 1 in 14 victims report the abuse, and when it comes to financial abuse, that number drops even lower.
Financial elder abuse is something which is notoriously underreported, under-investigated and as a result, under-prosecuted. It also takes on different forms than other types of abuse, which can make it harder to recognize.
What Is Financial Elder Abuse
Financial elder abuse can appear in several different ways, including:
- Forging an older person’s signature
- Using an older person’s property or possessions without his or her permission
- Taking money or property
- Forcing, deceiving, coercing, or influencing an older person to sign a will, deed, or power of attorney
- Committing “confidence crimes” (or “cons”) to gain the trust and confidence of the victim
- Promising to care for the older person in exchange for money or property while not following through with that promise
- Scamming an older person into giving up money or property (including telemarketing scams)
Who Might Commit Elder Abuse
Certain groups of people may be more prone to financially exploiting older individuals than others.
Family Members: The children, grandchildren or spouses of an older individual may financially exploit an older individual for a number of reasons. They may have an addiction problem (such as gambling or substance abuse), or they may have financial problems. In some situations, the family member may feel that he or she is “entitled” because of the past actions of a loved one. Family members may try to siphon money or property away from a loved one because they want to prevent another family member from inheriting money or property which they feel is rightfully theirs.
Businesses and Professionals: Unscrupulous professionals or businesses may overcharge an older individual for their products or services, use their position of respect or trust with your loved one to gain their confidence, or use unfair or deceptive business practices to financially abuse an older person.
Predatory Individuals: Some people intentionally seek out vulnerable seniors with the sole purpose of exploiting them. These people may claim to be “in love” or be the “boyfriend/girlfriend” of the individual. They may intentionally seek employment in jobs where they will be in contact with seniors, or they may spot vulnerable persons by walking or driving through neighborhoods.
Some Seniors Are at a Greater Risk Than Others
Seniors are often victims of financial exploitation because they do not realize the market value of their assets and they may have disabilities which impair their ability to keep up with financial transactions. They are also particularly attractive targets to exploiters because people over the age of 50 control over 70% of our nation’s disposable income.
While all seniors are at risk of financial exploitation, certain factors such as isolation, loneliness, having a mental or physical disability, or being unfamiliar with financial matters puts some seniors at a greater risk than others.
How to Spot Financial Elder Abuse
The financial exploitation of an older individual can be devastating. If you are concerned that your friend or loved one is being financially abused, here is what to look for according to the Federal Trade Commission:
- Suspicious changes in powers of attorney or a loved one’s will: You may notice that your father has changed the name of his power of attorney to someone who is not a family member, or your grandmother may will all of her belongings to her new nurse without explanation
- Bills are going unpaid: Your loved one may no longer be paying his or her bills because the caregiver is using that money for something else
- Financial activity your loved one could not have done him or herself: You may notice bank withdrawals or withdrawals from an ATM from your bedridden mother’s account
- Large withdrawals or strange purchases: You might see substantial amounts being withdrawn from your loved one’s account, but with nothing to account for it. You might also see unusual purchases (a new large screen TV, a new tablet, etc.) with there being no physical evidence of those purchases being made
Call a Financial Elder Abuse Lawyer at Dwyer Williams Cherkoss Attorneys, PC
Financial elder abuse can be devastating for older individuals and their families. Dwyer Williams Cherkoss Attorneys, PC devotes our time and efforts to protect the older and most vulnerable in Oregon by providing families with free legal consultations and aggressive legal representation that will hold abusers accountable for their actions.
We welcome you to contact us for a free initial consultation today by calling (541) 617-0555.