What Is Elder Abuse In Oklahoma?
According to Oklahoma law, elder financial abuse occurs when someone knowingly uses the assets of a senior citizen to benefit someone other than the individual. This includes using property or funds and can be outright theft or borrowing without consent. And, it doesn’t have to just benefit the perpetrator, but a third party can unwittingly be an accomplice if they receive the goods or assets. In this case the person who is exploiting the senior citizen is in a position of trust, such as a family member or other caregiver.
This is the basic definition of elder financial abuse, but there is more than one type. A business or individual that coerces or pressures a senior citizen into services is also committing elder financial abuse. Lying and stating that a repair must be done to their property or exaggerating the problem in order to convince the elderly individual into hiring them is elder abuse.
Scams, schemes and identity theft are also a common tool used by criminals to commit elder financial abuse.
Who Commits Elder Financial Abuse? How Do They Do It?
Unfortunately spotting an abuser isn’t as easy as it might be to catch other, more obvious criminals and crimes. With elder financial abuse the perpetrator could be a seemingly kind-hearted caregiver, or neighbor that just seems to be a compassionate stay-at-home mother or father. In addition to in-home, informal caregivers or home aides, senior citizens that live in nursing homes are also vulnerable to elder financial abuse. In a situation where a caregiver, regardless of if they are family members or staff in a nursing home, has access to a senior citizen’s belongings there is potential for theft of property or cash. Most of the time this isn’t an issue, but it is important to watch for signs of elder financial abuse.
As mentioned above, a business can take advantage of a senior citizen. This includes small businesses or self employed “handymen” that can do minor home repairs to property. A good example of this is a loose board on a homeowner’s back deck. Though many neighborhood handymen are honest and wouldn’t take advantage of an elderly homeowner, some may claim that it is necessary to repair a larger area, or that the deck is rotting and needs to be replaced and that they can do it for a rate much higher than what is reasonable.
Other forms of elder abuse come from the internet. Those that commit the scams mentioned above will use the internet to gather information about their intended victim so that they can either impersonate a relative asking for money during an urgent situation (the grandparent scam is a good example of this) or a creditor who claims that a recently deceased relative, usually a husband or wife, has a debt that needs to be paid. Sweetheart scams are common to any lonely adult, but the elderly are especially vulnerable as they—and their retirement account—make a very attractive target. There are several other internet scams, but the basis of them are largely the same. A cyber criminal gathers a small amount of information about a senior citizen, contacts them, and then uses that information to try and coerce, either through kindness or force, money from them.
Oklahoma Elder Financial Abuse Laws
Every state in the United States has elder abuse laws, but Oklahoma’s elder financial abuse laws are specific about what entails elder abuse and strict with punishment. There are a few statutes in Oklahoma law that addresses elder abuse.
§21-843.1. Elder Abuse
This law covers all forms of elder abuse or neglect in any form committed by anyone. This is a felony and depending on the severity of the crime can spend up to 15 years in prison and pay up to $10,000 in fines.
§21-843.4. Exploitation of elderly or disabled adult
This law goes into elder financial abuse in a little more detail. It also covers adults with disabilities, so it provides protection to more than just an elderly individual. This statute goes into detail about exploiting a senior citizen through intimidation or deceit and pertains specifically to financial elder abuse. This statute specifically mentions those in a position of trust, such as caregiver, or someone who reasonably should be expected to be fair and honest, like a business operator.
No: 115-70 Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act
Though the federal government largely relies on states to develop their own laws regarding financial elder abuse this bill became law in 2017. It doesn’t directly protect senior citizens from elder financial abuse, but it does establish procedures and requirements for the Department of Justice in regards to investigating forms of elder financial abuse, prosecuting those who do it, and training national and local law enforcement agencies.
Ways to Help Protect the Elderly
It’s important to be vigilant with elderly loved ones. Many caregivers are genuinely good people who only wish to help, but it’s still important to keep an eye on assets such as bank accounts, retirement funds or physical property. Children of senior citizens may choose to receive bank statements, or alerts from the bank when something unusual happens with the account such as a large withdrawal. If an elderly relative has expensive jewelry and wears it infrequently it may be wise to encourage them to store it in a safety deposit box in the event that there is a home invasion or an opportunistic caregiver.
Educating the elderly on common scams is a good way to protect them as well. Grandparents and grandchildren may work out a phrase or word that can be used in a phone conversation to ensure that it is actually them. Senior citizens may consider assigning a power of attorney so that if someone claiming to be from Medicare or the Social Security Administration the elderly individual can simply refer them to their representative.
Despite best efforts, elder financial abuse does occur. When it does, it’s important to find a good elder abuse lawyer in Tulsa. It is a felony to take advantage of a senior citizen regardless of if it’s financial or otherwise. A good elder financial abuse attorney can help bring the criminal to justice.