1 in 9 seniors over the age of sixty reported financial exploitation in the last twelve months.
Financial exploitation is a serious form of abuse because it can continue for extended periods of time before being discovered, causing irreparable harm to an elder’s financial picture. Depending on the extent of the crime, financial exploitation can devastate a senior’s savings. reduce their ability to afford medical care and destroy the lifestyle they’ve become accustomed to.
Elderly individuals may not know the value of their assets has increased, and they’re generally less likely to use technology to keep track of their finances. Many cases of financial exploitation remain unreported because seniors are often unaware any wrongdoing has occurred.
What is financial exploitation?
Financial exploitation, a common and increasingly serious issue, is defined as the illegal or improper use of an elder’s funds, property or assets. Elderly patients, especially those with Alzheimer’s or other cognitive difficulties, have a greater risk of falling victim to financial scams.
Research shows 90% of financial abuse is committed by trusted individuals. Family members, friends, caretakers or anyone who has a close relationship with an elderly individual could commit financial exploitation.
In some situations, a caregiver or guardian has control or power of attorney over the senior’s finances, including cash, credit cards, bank accounts and other personal information. Many seniors no longer have the ability to self-manage their assets, and anyone with direct access to their funds could choose to take advantage of them.
What are examples of financial exploitation?
There are many different kinds of financial abuse. While some forms of financial misconduct may be obvious, others are embedded in deception.
Some forms of financial abuse include, but are not limited to:
- Cashing an elderly person’s checks without authorization or permission
- Forging an older person’s signature
- Misusing or stealing an older person’s money or possessions
- Coercing or deceiving an older person into signing a document (e.g., contracts, will, assignment of property)
- Improper use of conservatorship, guardianship, or power of attorney
What are the signs of financial exploitation?
It’s important to consistently check in with seniors, staff and appointed guardians. There are a number of warning signs to watch out for, including:
- Sudden changes in bank account or banking practice
- Unexplained withdrawal of large sums of money or securities
- Inclusion of additional names on an elder’s bank signature card or brokerage accounts
- Unauthorized withdrawal of the elder’s funds using the elder’s ATM card
- Abrupt changes in a will or other financial documents
- Unexplained disappearance of funds or valuable possessions
- Substandard care being provided
- Bills unpaid despite adequate resources
- Discovery of an elder’s signature being forged for financial transactions, titles of possessions
- Sudden appearance of previously uninvolved relatives claiming financial rights
- Unexplained transfer of assets to a family member or someone outside the family
- Provision of services that are not necessary
- An elder’s report of financial exploitation
“While likely underreported, elder financial abuse and fraud costs older Americans $36.5 billion per year. Yet, financial exploitation is self-reported at rates higher than emotional, physical, and sexual abuse or neglect.”
– National Council on Aging
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