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Elder Abuse and Financial Exploitation

Posted by attorney David Shapiro

America’s elderly population is expected to explode in the next twenty years as baby boomers reach their sixties and seventies. Unfortunately, the elderly are particularly vulnerable to financial exploitation by their family members and caregivers, and should be protected when they are taken advantage of.

The elderly are prone to all forms of abuse because of their frail and vulnerable nature. Elder abuse can happen in their home, in a nursing home, an extended living facility or other senior care center. Because of their known vulnerabilities, they can be especially susceptible to financial exploitation and identity theft schemes. The very people who typically commit such crimes against the elderly are the ones who are closest to them and have the opportunity to take full advantage of them.

Aside from the victim’s age, elder abuse can affect every race, every socio-economic background, every religion, educational background and geographic location. Elder abuse is a global problem, plaguing nursing homes, extended living facilities and personal residences all over the world.

Unfortunately, many elder abuse victims suffer in silence. Either they have no family members or friends to turn to, or they think that their cries for help will be ignored and they fear retaliation from their abusers. Some victims of elder abuse aren’t even aware that they are being victimized and so financial exploitations go undetected indefinitely or until it is too late and the damage is already done.

Many elder abuse victims remain silent because they fear the repercussions their family members might face if they are criminally prosecuted, while others are too embarrassed to admit they have lost their money to unscrupulous predators. Others fear that nobody will believe them, chalking up their allegations to hallucinations or Alzheimer’s.

Financial abuse consists of theft or embezzlement of money or any other property from an elderly person. It can be as minor as taking cash from a victim’s purse or wallet and as insidious and cunning as turning the victim’s property over to the abuser.

It is important to be vigilant if you suspect that your loved one has fallen prey to a predator. Keep an eye out for unusual bank account activity, such as withdrawals from an ATM when the individual was at home or at a time when they could not get to a bank.

Also look for unusual debits on their account, signatures on checks that do not resemble their signature, strange credit card transactions, unpaid bills when someone else is designated to pay the bills, a lack of personal amenities, a change in spending patterns, or the odd appearance of a stranger who begins a close friendship and offers to handle the elder’s finances for them.

A clue that there may be something to worry about is social isolation. If friends or family members are being denied visitation or contact with the elderly person, there might be something to worry about. Furthermore, if the elder is not able to speak freely or without the caregiver present, it may give you cause for concern.

Elder abuse can also involve telemarketing fraud, identity theft, and predatory lending. On a more intimate level, even family members can take advantage of their relatives. People empowered with “Power of Attorney" can abuse their position by taking money from the elder’s bank, transferring property and even placing the elder into a long-term care facility against their will.

The elderly can be abused by family members, conservators, caregivers, trustees, representative payees, financial planners, attorneys and friends amongst others. If you suspect that you or your loved one have been a victim of elder abuse, contact a caring and compassionate estate planning attorney today before it’s too late.

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