The first thought that comes to mind when one thinks of elder abuse is bruises, broken bones or neglect, usually at the hands of an inattentive, abusive or violent caregiver. Unfortunately that is just one facet of a disturbing problem for the elderly. Financial abuse is becoming very prevalent these days. Elder financial abuse occurs when the caregiver or other entity responsible for an elderly person’s financial assets takes advantage of them by secretly taking and using the elderly person’s money or property for their own gain. The abuser can be a friend, health care provider, nursing home employee or even their own children or relatives! Make no mistake about it – these people are predators. And, unlike physical abuse, financial abuse is usually not obvious. Here are 15 signs that elder financial abuse may be happening to your friend, relative or parent.
Unexplained Bank Activity
Elder financial fraud is an easy, low risk crime when an elderly patient suffers from cognitive issues. This is often done by forging an elder’s signature on checks or withdrawals which the abuser can then cash or negotiate. It can also be done with other documents such as a new bank loan. Within the bounds of their required confidentiality, banks can be a great source to check and see if the elderly person’s bankers have noticed suspicious activities or even if they are just worried about their customer.
The abusers will often masquerade as friends and groom their target. Not everyone who comes into an elderly patient’s life is necessarily there for nefarious purposes, but it’s important to pay attention to the motives – and the actions – of new faces. This same principle applies to friends and relatives who suddenly want to be caregivers and working with the elderly individual. Be certain to check references. Be certain to monitor continuously. Ask hard questions. Do not accept anything but full and complete answers.
Promising Care in Exchange for Money/Property
Unfortunately, elder financial abuse is more common that you might expect. Tricking or Forcing an elderly person to give a certain amount of money up front in exchange for care, and then not following through with that care, is a huge red flag for elder financial abuse.
Items Go Missing
Many mementos or items collected by an elderly friend or family member may be valuable, and thus an attractive target for thieves. Taking these items can be relatively easy if the elderly person has memory problems. This is theft and another form of elder abuse. Elder abuse lawyers in Tulsa often suggest putting valuables, such as jewelry, in a safety deposit box that requires two (2) signatures to gain entry in order to ensure that they remain in an elderly family member’s possession and safe from theft.
Using Property without Permission
It’s not quite as obvious as theft, but borrowing or using property without permission is also a form of elder financial abuse. Cars, for example, shouldn’t be used without the consent of the property owner, regardless if they drive it anymore or not. Aside from being a form of theft, if there is an accident and the abuser/driver is not covered under insurance, or if the driver does not have a driver’s license, has past driving violations or is just a very bad driver, the elderly person is then open to liability to anyone damaged or worse yet, hurt, in an accident.
Forcing Them to Sign Legal Documents
No one should ever be forced to sign a deed giving away their property, or a will or give someone a power of attorney over their assets if they do not want to do so. But this does happen – often. Family members often feel entitled to their parent’s property. Many times they feel that should not have to wait any longer. Sadly, elder financial elder by family members is a common occurrence
Missing Bank Statements
It’s extraordinarily easy for predators to take full control of an elderly individual’s financial situation by simply changing the address with the bank. Instead of just looking for obvious signs of elder financial abuse, also look for the absence of certain things like a monthly bank statement or a monthly mortgage statement.
Unexplainable Living Situation
A sure sign of financial elder abuse is if the individual’s living situation changes or deteriorates and doesn’t match their monthly retirement income. Unpaid utilities or evictions for someone who has, in the past, been able to make those payments is a strong indicator of elder financial abuse.
This often isn’t targeted at one individual, but rather many elderly persons. Be certain to check receipts for donations made to a charity to ensure that they are a legitimate organization. The Better Business Bureau operates the Wise Giving Alliance (http://give.org/), a helpful resource when it comes to identifying reputable charities. You can also speak to an attorney in Jenks, OK and have them determine if a charity is legitimate.
Over Charging for Repairs
Some companies will overcharge an elderly client for services or do unnecessary services in order to receive more money. A new and unneeded new roof, new gutters, and expensive alarms system are all possible abuse. It’s important to be aware of this form of elder financial abuse and periodically review infrequent and frequent services.
Using Their Credit
Though it isn’t identity theft, charging purchases to a cardholder’s card without their permission is elder financial fraud and a form of elder financial abuse. Taking out new credit cards in the elderly person’s name is fraud. It’s best to consult with a financial elder abuse attorney as soon as possible concerning the legal repercussions.
Some scammers will target an elderly individual through telemarketing. They use deception and scare tactics to persuade an unsuspecting person to send them money. This form of financial elder abuse can sometimes be difficult to trace and very difficult to stop.
Isolation is often a problem for homebound elderly individuals. If a person or persons demands money or property in exchange for spending time with them or running simple errands for them occasionally, this is also a form of elder financial abuse, albeit a harder one to prove.
Sometimes the best place to look for a sign of elder financial abuse is to look at the caregiver. If they are suddenly behaving differently, such as quitting their regular job or driving a vehicle out of their means, it is wise to check the financial situation of the elderly person in their care. If the caregiver gambles, no matter how much they may downplay it, gambling is a huge red flag.
Deceiving Them into a Purchase
Even though an elder person might willingly sign over property or funds, propagating a lie or outright creating a deception in order to deceive them into doing it is definitely a sign of elder abuse.
Most people find the abuse of children and the elderly to be despicable. The signs aren’t obvious. Elderly men and women who spend their lives creating a home and environment that they can be happy in are an attractive target to predators even if those predators are their own children. The best way to combat this is to be attentive and watch for red flags. If you feel that this is happening, consult an elder financial abuse attorney who has experience in finding evidence of elder financial fraud.
The National Center on Elder Abuse (https://ncea.acl.gov/) features publications and other resources that can help educate caregivers or concerned individuals on elder financial abuse both in and out of assisted living situations. A lawyer in Jenks, OK specializing in elder financial abuse can also help connect the family members of someone suspected of elder abuse to different local resources that not only help raise awareness, but also recover from a financial loss.