Did you know that up to 3 to 5 percent of the elderly in the US have suffered abuse and one in every 10 people over 60 who lives at home suffers some form of abuse, neglect or exploitation? Despite the prevalence of the problem, it remains significantly underreported and unnoticed by the public. Financial exploitation is one of the most common forms of elder theft. Here are five steps you can take to protect your loved one from crimes that deprive older adults of their resources and their independence.
1. Know the Signs of Elder Abuse
Often, the signs of elder abuse are as simple as noticing changes in your loved one’s behavior or their financial situation. If bills are not being paid, you notice unusual ATM activity, large withdrawals from bank accounts, signatures on checks that don’t match with the signature of the elder, their life circumstances don’t match up with their financial assets, and a new person is added to bank accounts or credit cards, then it’s quite likely the elderly loved one is the victim of financial exploitation. Financial exploitation of elders is all too common; financial exploiters are following the money trail and seniors tend to have a higher net worth than younger adults. Older adults that may have disabilities or rely on others for help can be susceptible to scams and other frauds; advances in technology can also make it difficult for seniors to know who to trust and what’s safe.
“If a new person is added to bank accounts or credit cards, then it’s quite likely the elderly loved one is the victim of financial exploitation.”
2. Survey Their Accounts
An elderly person is more susceptible to exploitation if they don’t take full responsibility for their finances. While it’s normal for older people to entrust another family member to help manage their finances, they should ultimately be the one in control of them. By knowing where the money is going, seniors are less likely to become victims of financial abuse. They should be educated about the common scams by strangers and “professionals,” so that they take charge for their own finances wisely. If they are unable to take financial responsibility, make a list of all the places your loved one keeps money and look for any suspicious activity or changes in their spending patterns. Add yourself to their bank accounts so you can monitor them for any suspicious transactions. Set up bank alerts so you know when those transactions are taking place in real-time. Investigate any transactions that they either cannot remember or seem out of place for their lifestyle.
“Add yourself to their bank accounts so you can monitor them for any suspicious transactions.”
3. Talk to Your Loved One and Stay Informed
If you are concerned about the well being of an elderly relative, often the best step to take is to simply talk to them about it. Who manages their money on a day-to-day basis? Are their bills being paid on time? Are they aware of everything that is going on with their money? How often do they check their accounts online? Financial abuse can also take place on the telephone or face-to-face in the form of solicitation or even in-home service providers. For example, salespeople or so-called “friends” can perpetrate scams for home repair services, health-related services and other things that an elderly person may need and be inclined to buy into.
“So-called “friends” can perpetrate scams for home repair services, health-related services and other things that an elderly person may need and be inclined to buy into.“
4. Get to Know Their New “Friends”
“Sweetheart” scams, in which an individual inserts themselves into an elderly person’s life in order to gain access to their financial assets. Keep in touch with your loved ones and ask about any new friends who suddenly pop up. By keeping in contact with your loved ones regularly, you’re not only able to keep tabs on their daily activities and habits, but also offer help when they need it. A good relationship will also make the elderly person feel comfortable enough to ask for assistance when they feel they need it. You’ll also be able to look out for any abnormal changes that may signal abuse.
“By keeping in contact with your loved ones regularly, you’re not only able to keep tabs on their daily activities and habits, but also offer help when they need it.”
5. Know When to Step In
Talk to your elderly friends or loved ones to see if there are any of the signs mentioned above. Report the elder financial abuse to their bank, and enlist their bank’s help to stop it and prevent its recurrence. Contact Adult Protective Services in your town or state for help. Report all instances of elder financial abuse to your local police – if fraud is involved, they should investigate. If you need the help of a professional well-versed in Elder Abuse cases, contact our lawyers. We are well-versed in this area of the law and can help. Additionally resources can be found online. The Department of Justice has created training modules to help attorneys recognize and address potential financial exploitation of older Americans.
Has Someone You Love Been the Victim of Elder Abuse?
If you suspect a loved one of being the victim of elder abuse, you need to act quickly to protect them. Contact the lawyers at Bonjour, Thorman, Burns & Dahm with offices in Pleasanton, Oakland and Fremont immediately for help. With over 30 years in practice our San Francisco Bay Area attorneys have the experience, education and passion to help protect and litigate on your behalf. Contact Bonjour, Thorman, Burns & Dahm immediately for an initial free consultation if you or a loved one has any of the signs of being abused. (Here is a map to our Pleasanton office.)