When you think of elder abuse, physical or emotional harm may come to mind. Not many people think about financial abuse, but it is a real issue that is becoming more and more common.
Financial abuse refers to the exploitation of a person for their money and assets. It involves the illegal, unauthorized, or fraudulent use of the money and property of a vulnerable adult for the person’s own financial gain. This crime deprives older adults of their resources as well as their independence.
Financial abuse is especially prevalent in California, given that the state has more than 4 million people over the age of 65 — more than any other state. Making matters worse is that the number of seniors in California is expected to increase by 20% over the next 20 years.
Financial abuse is a serious crime. It robs people of their livelihood, savings, and even their identities, in some cases. It costs victims nearly $3 billion every year, so it’s no minor issue and it needs to be taken seriously.
Older adults tend to be targeted for various reasons. Many have physical or mental disabilities and rely on others for help, which can cause them to be susceptible to scams and other fraud. If they have dementia or other memory problems, they may be unaware of what is happening to their finances, making them easy targets. Also, technology is getting smarter due to constant advances. Phishing and other online scams can make it difficult for seniors to know what is safe and what is not. Many emails and websites look legit but they’re really not.
Because of this, seniors and their families need to be alert. They need to know the warnings, how to protect themselves, and how to report financial abuse if it does happen.
Warning Signs of Financial Abuse
Financial abuse is not visual in nature, so it’s not always noticeable. You cannot tell by looking at someone whether or not they are a victim of financial abuse. Sometimes victims are embarrassed to even say anything, so you may not know unless you ask and do some investigation on your own. Here are some warning signs that your elderly loved one may be a victim of financial abuse:
Unusual bank account activity, such as large withdrawals that are frequent or unexplained
ATM withdrawals when the senior has never used an ATM card
Unexplained bank transfers
A relative or friend who suddenly starts conducting financial transactions on the elderly person’s behalf
Sudden unpaid bills
Attempts to wire large sums of money
Checks written as “loans” or “gifts”
Bank statements that no longer go to the customer’s home
New powers of attorney the older person does not understand
Changes to wills and trusts
Loss of property
How Seniors Can Protect Themselves
Financial abuse and identity theft are common occurrences among the elderly. The good news is that you can protect yourself by taking the following actions:
Plan ahead to protect your assets. Talk to an attorney or financial advisor about the best options for you.
Shred receipts and bank statements before throwing them away.
Choose a trustworthy person to assist you with financial and estate planning matters.
If you do not understand a document, consult with a financial advisor or attorney before signing.
Do not allow anyone to have access to information about your finances. If you must hire workers, do a background check first.
Keep your money, checkbook, account statements, and other private financial information locked up when others are in your home.
Check your credit report at least once a year to ensure everything is accurate.
Never give your Social Security number, account number, or other financial information to anyone except for a trusted party. Most companies will not ask for your Social Security number or account password.
Never pay to collect sweepstakes or lottery winnings.
Pay with checks and credit cards instead of cash to keep a paper trail.
Feel free to say “no.” After all, it is your money.
If you think someone is trying to intimidate you because of your money, let your bank know.
Trust your instincts. Exploiters and abusers often are very skilled and charming. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Reporting Financial Abuse
If you think you have been a victim of financial abuse, talk to a trusted friend or family member.
If you want to report elder financial abuse, contact your local county Adult Protective Services office by calling (833) 401-0832. You can also contact your local law enforcement agency.
There are many other resources to consider. The California Law Enforcement Agencies website can help you find law enforcement agencies in your community so you can file a report. If the abuse happened at a nursing home, be sure to talk with management to resolve the situation.
As a last resort, an attorney can also take on your case and help you get justice as well as restitution for the money that was stolen from you. They can hold the liable party accountable for the abuse.
Contact Newman Law Group Today
Financial abuse is similar to other forms of elder abuse in that it can be devastating for the victim and is often linked to family members.
Financial abuse is often perpetrated by family members, although nursing home staff, neighbors, and friends may engage in it with elderly people as well. Learning that an elderly loved one is being abused can cause a great deal of shock, confusion, and stress. At Newman Law Group, LLP, we have more than 30 years of experience with such cases. We can provide you with answers and resolutions. To schedule a consultation, call (916) 352-3230 or fill out the online form.