The elderly often face mental and physical declines that make them increasingly vulnerable to financial exploitation. Exploitation can include fraudulent investment schemes, scams, identity fraud, and outright theft. Forms of theft can include forged signatures on checks, credit card misuse, fraudulent withdrawals, and theft of valuables from the home.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of financial exploitation is committed by people close to the victim. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, over half of elder financial exploitation is committed by family members. Friends, neighbors, and home care aides collectively account for about a third of all financial exploitation.
Additionally, perpetrators of elder financial exploitation are more likely to be male and have other issues in their own lives. These issues can include substance abuse, financial difficulties, legal troubles, and social problems.
In terms of risk factors for becoming a victim of financial abuse, isolation significantly increases the likelihood of exploitation. Social isolation can lead to a willingness to talk to anyone, even someone who would otherwise garner suspicion, for a social connection. Social isolation can also make it easier for an exploiter to cut off the victim from their wider, less frequent social contacts. Extended isolation also allows for financial exploitation to go undetected for a longer period of time.
There are a number of signs that can indicate financial abuse is taking place. These can include financial transactions that the elderly individual cannot explain, missing checks, the addition of new people to an elderly person’s financial accounts, and bills that are going unpaid that the person normally pays off. An additional sign is the sudden presence of someone who is suddenly dominating the elderly individual. This domination can include insistence that the elderly person not speak to other people and answering questions on behalf of the elderly person, even if the elderly person is present and awake.
There are a number of options available if you suspect elder financial exploitation is taking place. One option is to contact the person’s financial institutions to watch out for suspicious activity. Another option is to contact local agencies tasked with combating elder abuse. If you have evidence that actual theft is occurring, local law enforcement should also be contacted.
To help prevent elder financial exploitation, elderly individuals should meet with a local elder law attorney to create a plan to protect themselves in case they become incapacitated. This plan can appoint trusted individuals, in advance, to look after a person’s affairs if the need arises. Additionally, a local elder law attorney will be able to recommend various local resources and options to ward off potential isolation, if necessary.
To help protect yourself, or a loved one, from elder financial abuse, please call Martha C. Brown & Associates at (314) 962-0186.