Elder financial exploitation is a nuanced term for a growing problem–the financial abuse of the elderly.
Financial abuse of the elderly is a growing concern in today’s society. There are more senior citizens now than ever before and many of them are institutionalized or require help to get by in life. These dependent situations create an environment where the elderly can be taken advantage of financially.
What Is Financial Abuse?
Elder financial exploitation or financial abuse involves the manipulation or taking advantage of an elderly person in order to gain access to his or her cash, investments, property, or real estate.
Who Commits Financial Abuse?
Financial abuse can be committed by anyone who has control over or contact with an elderly person’s finances. It is estimated that 75 percent of financial abuse is committed by someone in the elderly person’s family. However, financial abuse can be committed by service providers, business professionals, or even close friends. Persons who have been granted financial power of attorney also may financially abuse the elderly person.
Examples Of Financial Abuse
Financial abuse can take many forms. Our NY elder law attorneys know that most common forms are stealing money or personal property from the elderly person. Other forms of financial abuse can include:
-Cashing checks without the elderly person’s permission or authorization -Forging the elderly person’s signature -Tricking or pressuring the elderly person to divulge valuable financial information, such as a social security number, bank account numbers, and credit card numbers -Tricking or pressuring the elderly person to modify a deed, will, trust, contract, or other financial instrument -Tricking or pressuring the elderly person into agreeing to the improper use of a guardianship, conservatorship, or power of attorney arrangement
Warning Signs Of Financial Abuse
Financial abuse is not always obvious. However, some common signs include:
-Unexplained checks made payable to a particular caregiver or service provider -Unexplained bank withdrawals or disbursements -Unexplained transfers of assets -Unexplained changes in which financial institutions are being used -Additional names on checking accounts or other financial accounts -Abrupt changes in a will or other financial documents -Missing or unaccounted for personal belongings -Unexplained reluctance by the elderly person to talk about routine finances
What To Do In The Event You Suspect Financial Abuse Of An Elderly Person
Family and friends should be on the lookout for financial abuse of any elderly person with whom they are close. Instituting measures to reduce the possibility of financial abuse can also help. These measures include performing background checks on caregivers, securing personal property in a safe or locked place, periodically checking the elderly person’s credit report and watching for signs of identity theft, instituting automatic bill paying systems and direct deposits, and having financial statements sent to a trusted person or location.
In the event an elderly person has been financially abused, state fraud laws can be used to reverse transactions and tort law can be used to recover damages. Efforts are also underway to institute specific laws to protect the elderly from the terrible consequences of financial abuse, including legal reforms that would bar wrongdoers from inheriting or otherwise collecting from financial trickery against elderly persons.