Elder Law: How to Pick Up on Elder Financial Abuse
There are too many stories of older adults being robbed of their life savings, their home, or their investments and as elder law attorneys, we hear them all. Sometimes the theft comes at the hands of an unknown individual, but in other cases, the theft comes from those who should be guarding them against harm: their family or their caretaker. According to the American Psychological Association, at least four million cases of elder abuse and neglect go on record every year. And that does not take into consideration the 20+ unreported instances of abuse or neglect that occur for every case that gets reported to the authorities. How can we protect seniors from financial elder abuse?
What is Financial Elder Abuse?
The first step in preventing and addressing the financial elder abuse issue is understanding what the phrase means. Financial elder abuse is any theft or mismanagement (purposeful or neglectful) of an elderly individual’s funds, real estate investments, or property. Financial elder abusers tend to perceive seniors or the senior they are targeting as vulnerable. Abusers generally assume they are unlikely to fight back or report the situation. In some cases, financial elder abuse is a one-time incident, but in others, the abuse can span years.
Different Types of Financial Elder Abuse:
Different abusers will use different methods of obtaining what they want from their target. If you are worried about financial elder abuse, be aware of some of the most common methods seen in many cases.
Coercion through Violence or Neglect:
Some abusers coerce an elderly individual into agreeing to transfer property, turn over funds, etc. through violence, threats of violence, or purposeful neglect. For instance, caretakers of the severely disabled may withhold food, water, or primary care until they comply.
Frequently Demanding Money:
Sometimes, a friend, family member, neighbor, caregiver, or even a spouse may take advantage of an older adult’s willingness to lend money with frequent demands. This is particularly troublesome when the elderly individual struggles with memory loss.
Some abusers will steal the senior’s property, purchase something from the elderly individual at a price much too low to be considered fair market value, or borrow something without ever returning the item.
Draining Joint Accounts:
Some elderly individuals have joint bank accounts with children, grandchildren, etc. While this can make assisting the elderly individual with their financial needs and household budgeting easy, it can also make it easy for the abuser to make withdrawals for their own benefit without the approval of the senior.
In many situations, an elder appoints someone they trust (a friend or a family member) to manage their funds through a power of attorney. When the individual named is unscrupulous, a power of attorney can be used to rob the elder of their property and funds.
Investment Schemes, Street and Internet Scams:
Abusers sometimes persuade an elderly person to invest in high-risk investments or “deals” that endangers their financial security. Con artists frequently target the elderly. Older individuals who use the internet may at considerable risk to common online scams.
Many abusers will use the elderly person’s credit history to obtain credit or take out loans or fraudulently obtain medical care under the elder individual’s name.
Real Estate Fraud:
Some abusers will trick the elderly individual into transferring ownership of their home, encourage them to take out unnecessary second mortgage’s at high-interest rates, or file a forged deed to steal the older individual’s property.
These are just a few of the ways someone may try to take advantage of or abuse an elderly individual. As the senior segment of the population continues to grow, it is even more critical that we consider the different types of elder abuse out there and actively seek to identify it and report it when it occurs.
If you have questions about elder financial abuse or if you need to discuss other aspects of elder law, please get in touch with one of the experienced Florida elder law attorneys at Elder Solutions Law Firm, PA. We have the experience the help you plan for the future.