The elderly are often targets for various forms of financial exploitation. Exploiters often seek out the elderly to victimize because of their increased likelihood of isolation due to physical limitations, death of their spouse, or loss of interpersonal interactions after retirement.
There are several warning signs of potential exploitation to look out for.
Isolation from Friends and Family
If an individual becomes isolated from family and long-time friends, then the individual may be under the sway of a financial exploiter. Exploiters often seek to put up barriers between an individual and their friends and family in order to hide their actions and make the individual more dependent on the exploiter.
The exploiter might get the individual to change phone numbers or move to a new address to further isolate an individual from others. The exploiter may intercept communications from other friends and family in order to make the individual feel abandoned. Once the exploiter has the individual isolated, they may get the individual to change their will, make the individual sign a power of attorney, put their money into joint accounts, or generally take over an individual’s personal affairs.
If an individual starts to develop seeming forgetfulness around their financial affairs, this may be a sign of financial exploitation. Things to look out for include unexplained withdrawals, unusual credit card charges, sudden changes to credit scores, and missing checks. These events may indicate that someone close to the individual is using the individual for their own personal gain. Individuals should be extremely wary of anyone wanting to borrow credit cards, debit cards, checks, or cash under the guise of running errands for the individual.
Sudden Changes in Personal Property
The sudden disappearance of personal property may also be a sign of exploitation. A seemingly trusted individual, such as a friend, caretaker, or relative, may be stealing from the individual to finance their own habits.
Another suspicious circumstance is if the individual acquires possessions that they would not ordinarily seem interested in. In this case, an exploiter may be using the individual to acquire things for the exploiter instead of the victim of the exploitation.
Online Dating Fraud
One newer threat to look out for is online dating fraud, also known as catfishing. In online dating fraud, the exploiter will contact a potential victim through an online dating site. The exploiter then starts corresponding with the potential victim over a period of weeks, if not months, to build up a level of trust and emotional attachment. At some point, the exploiter will claim that they are trapped in some form of temporary financial difficulty. Often times this difficulty comes in the form of a robbery or claiming to be trapped overseas. The exploiter will claim to need money to get out of this assuredly temporary predicament. Once the victim sends the money, the victim never hears from the exploiter again. One particular sign to watch out for is an unwillingness, or claimed inability, to meet in person.
Ways to Help Prevent Exploitation
Individuals should try to remain socially active and connected with friends and family. Friends and relatives should also seek to maintain their relationships with elderly individuals in their lives.
Individuals should also work with an elder law attorney to develop a plan to protect themselves and their financial assets in case of a potential physical or mental incapacity. The best time to develop a plan to designate which trusted family members or friends to manage a person’s affairs after incapacity is well before any such incapacity takes place.
To help protect yourself or a loved one from potential financial exploitation, please call Martha C. Brown & Associates at (314) 962-0186.