Financial exploitation is the unlawful or unethical taking or mishandling of a person’s funds, property, or assets.
What is Financial Exploitation of the Elderly?
Specifically, financial exploitation of the elderly is a type of elder abuse that happens when someone uses an older adult’s financial information and takes money or assets without consent. This is usually done to steal or permanently deprive the older person of their money or assets.
Elderly adults (typically aged 65 and above) are targeted because they have assets to steal, like money in bank accounts or houses, and may be living on social security benefits. These people are often seen as being more trusting than others.
How Does Financial Elder Abuse Happen?
Financial exploitation of the elderly has become more ordinary over time due to various factors. For example, older adults live longer these days, but social security benefits may not be enough to cover all their costs.
As a result, they might become more susceptible to financial scamming by enticing them with winning a lottery or other prizes like sweepstakes that need an upfront fee.
In most circumstances, elder financial scamming involves a perpetrator gaining access to an elder’s data through fraud or force.
Scammers may use aggressive techniques such as threatening violence or using physical force if they don’t hand over cash immediately to exploit the elder for money. Older individuals who receive bills from unknown businesses might be at risk of being financially exploited.
These elder abuse scams often start with phone calls, mailings, or door-to-door visits.
Fraudsters might claim to be from government agencies or phone companies, saying that the elder has fallen behind on bills or owes back taxes and could get in deep trouble unless they pay a fee.
They might also pretend to be a companion of the elderly person who needs cash because they are stranded in a foreign country or jail. These fraudsters may even call pretending to be family members who need help.
Sometimes scammers prey upon older individuals by promising them that they’ll make a considerable amount of money if they allow their names to be used as part-owners for businesses overseas. However, the older individual doesn’t know that there’s no business.
Another exploitation tactic where an elderly person may be exploited is by buying a product or service that doesn’t exist or isn’t the same as what was promised, such as a travel package that never appears or a house repair that doesn’t get accomplished.
Sometimes, fraudsters will con older adults into paying them with things like gift cards, credit card numbers, or bank account info instead of cash. For example, someone might call pretending to be from the senior’s bank and say there’s been fraudulent activity on their accounts and then ask them for this information.
In other scams, someone might send an email referring to themselves as “technical support” for the elder’s computer company, then ask them to email their password or credit card information.
An older individual might also lose cash by allowing the perpetrator access to their house. This can happen whether it’s an in-home caregiver who steals money from wallets or someone posing as a utility worker who needs to come inside and claim to check on something after a natural disaster and then ask for money for repairs and never do the work.
Additionally, younger generations don’t know much about elder abuse or neglect and often see it as a normal part of aging. They can view older adults as stubborn and hurting themselves by refusing help even when it’s available.
How Do You Prove Exploitation of the Elderly?
If an elderly person’s faculties begin to decline to a point where they aren’t capable of making important decisions regarding their finances and health, people they trust may be given the legal powers to begin making decisions for them. This is usually done through a power of attorney or guardianship.
According to some elder exploitation laws, any breach of fiduciary duty takes place if the guardian or agent isn’t acting in the best interests of the elderly individual.
When proving elder financial exploitation or a breach of a fiduciary or someone else, one or more of the following must be established:
- Extensive withdrawal from monetary accounts
- Increased or altered spending habits
- Someone added to the senior’s financial accounts
- Unpaid health care costs or no health care
- Changes in the senior’s estate
- Changes in the senior’s personality
- Payments or gifts that seem excessive
If you think that your loved one has been the victim of financial abuse, contacting an attorney for help is the best thing you can do. They can gather the required proof for the case to ensure the responsible parties are punished.
What Can You Do To Protect Yourself Against Elder Financial Scams?
Here are some tips to protect yourself against elder financial scams:
- If you get a call claiming your car warranty will expire, it’s most likely a scam. If you have car warranty services, call the company yourself and verify that a legitimate person is calling you.
- If someone comes to your door asking for donations related to a natural disaster, don’t offer money or give out financial information. Decline or offer to volunteer your time instead.
- Be wary if you’re asked to pay with gift cards or prepaid credit cards instead of cash. They are not refundable and can be impossible to trace once they’re gone.
- Keep track of all the financial transactions in your accounts, so you know when extensive withdrawals occur without explanation.
If you think elder financial scamming has taken place, you can take action. Contact the elder’s bank and close or freeze their accounts. You can fill out a police report and contact Adult Protective Services or another state agency that oversees elder abuse to find out what other steps must be taken.
What Are The Signs Of Financial Exploitation of the Elderly?
Elder financial abuse and elder financial exploitation can be hard to see sometimes. Some older adults might not want to reveal the full details of their losses because they feel ashamed or embarrassed of being financially exploited.
Individuals who are dependent on others for care or are vulnerable due to age and mental or physical illness are often targets of financial exploitation.
Cues that an elderly individual is being victimized and financially exploited include:
- Unexplained disappearance of cash, valuable objects, and financial statements
- Any unexplained or unauthorized modifications to wills or other estate documents
- Giving away money or excessive spending
- The appearance of property liens or foreclosure notices
- Unexpected bank withdrawals beyond the limits set for withdrawal by the elder
- Unauthorized credit card usage or newly issued credit cards in an elder’s name
- Hurried changes in account names, account numbers, or payment amounts
- Signatures on checks that do not resemble those of the elder
- Inability to pay bills or provide necessities for self or family members
It is essential that any changes or signs like the ones listed above be taken seriously and reported to law enforcement, social workers, or other appropriate professionals.
To protect those at risk from financial exploitation, those who come into contact with elderly persons must exercise a high degree of caution. This includes family members, friends, and professionals such as doctors, lawyers, and bankers.
Anyone who has access to finances should exercise caution, particularly if the older individual becomes isolated due to illness or the death of a spouse. Advisors suggest maintaining detailed records of financial transactions and regular visits to ensure that an older person’s needs are met.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Financial Exploitation of the Elderly Issues?
If you or a family member suspects that their loved one is being exploited, they may not know where to turn or what to do. Every family has various needs depending on their circumstances and resources. For instance, some family members will want assistance filing for a Special Power of Attorney (POA).
Having a family lawyer on your side can provide you with options and help you make informed decisions about the soundest ways to help family members who might be at risk of financial exploitation.