Elder financial abuse involves someone or a group of individuals who an elderly person trusts misappropriating their financial resources or otherwise abusing their financial control over that elderly person.
Elder financial abuse can occur in varying ways, including:
- Stealing money or even property from an elderly individual
- Using an elderly individual’s possessions or property without their consent
- Charging items against an elderly individual’s credit cards without their authorization
- Forged signatures on checks or other important documents
- Forcing an elderly person to sign a legal financial document (a will, deed, or power of attorney) listing the abuser/perpetrator as being responsible for that elderly person or as the person who will financially gain when the elderly person dies
- Promising to give an elderly individual care for the rest of their life, but only in exchange for money or property
- Committing fraud by using deceptive pretenses or otherwise dishonest acts as a means to gain access to an elderly individuals finances
- Carrying out cons or other confidences plays in order to gain an elderly individual’s trust
- Carrying out telemarketing phone scams where an elderly individual is called and the perpetrator uses deceptive, exaggerated claims or scare tactics to get the elderly individual to send them money and/or otherwise gain access to their finances
These financial abusers can be anyone, from the relatives of an elderly individual to their significant other, someone else they trust, or even strangers. The abuser might feel entitled to an elderly individual’s possessions as if they rightfully belong to them as well. On the other hand, they might already be in line to inherit that elderly individual’s money or belongings once they die. The abuser might be a relative who has issues with other relatives. Therefore, they want to prevent them from having any access to the elderly individual’s possessions. The abuser might also state that they’re afraid that the elderly individual will deplete their savings paying for medical care.
Predatory abusers might read obituaries seeking out their surviving elderly significant others, or they might drive around town and visit different communities, looking for elderly individuals who are lonely. They might use trusted positions or work in jobs caring for elderly people (i.e. counseling or nursing home caretakers) in order to gain access to elderly individual and potentially gain their trust. They might then use immoral business practices to trick an elderly individual or overcharge them for necessary services.
Elderly individuals that are more prone to financial abuse are the ones that are lonely, isolated, are physically or mentally disabled, have recently lost a loved one, aren’t good with or familiar with financial matters, and/or have unemployed relatives with substance abuse issues.
In general, the elderly are seemingly easy targets because they’re more likely not to be familiar with technology and might have financial management issues. If they aren’t good with finances, they won’t be aware if/when their assets (e.g. their home) increases in value. Also, abusers assume that elderly individuals are so old, sick and/or disabled that they’ll be gone before they have a chance to take any legal action against the abuser. If they’re disabled, they might be more dependent on others, playing in the favor of the abuser.
Signs of elder financial abuse include:
- Canceled checks or bank statements that go to someone else’s (likely the perpetrator’s) home
- Unexplainable large bank withdrawals or transfers between different bank accounts
- Eviction notices, proof of unpaid bills or utilities being discontinued because they haven’t been paid, inability to buy food or pay for social activities
- The perpetrator refers to the elder as their new “close” or “best” friend
- The elder person’s care is substandard even when they can pay for it
- Unexplainable ATM withdrawals or other unexplained withdrawals that the elderly individual could not have made
- Coercion of the elderly individual to sign powers of attorney or other legal forms they didn’t or couldn’t understand
- The abuser/perpetrator shows an unreasonable interest in how much money an elderly individual is spending
- There are missing belongings (e.g. jewelry) or missing property
- There are forgeries on legal forms or on their checks
- Financial arrangements are sketchy and lack documentation
- The explanations about the elderly individual’s finances as explained by the abuser/perpetrator don’t make sense
- The elderly individual is unaware of or doesn’t understand their own finances
- Reluctance to create a will
If you suspect that a loved one is being financially abused, please contact Lloyd & Lloyd to discuss legal options and compensation.