Elder abuse is something no one wants to admit happens, but it is increasing in frequency and it’s up to the younger generation to stop it. In a previous blog, we discussed the three types of abuse our aging loved ones are targets for: physical, psychological and financial. For our aging population who often suffer from diminished mobility and/or cognitive ability, financial abuse is often unreported.
Why? In 90% of cases, the financial abuse is done by those closest to the elderly, often their own family members. Therefore, it is up to those who encounter the elderly to look for the signs of this abuse and act.
Types of Financial Abuse
Basically, financial elder abuse is the exploitation of a senior’s funds and property. It happens whether someone is considered “rich” or “poor”. As mentioned in a recent AARP article, even those most revered in our society have been at risk of financial fraud (e.g. former astronaut Buzz Aldrin and Marvel comic book legend Stan Lee). In fact, according to the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA), 1 in 20 seniors have perceived financial abuse in some way.
Below are the most common ways seniors are cheated out of financial assets:
- Theft – stolen cash, personal items, medications, etc.
- Fraud – falsification of records, unauthorized check writing
- Real Estate – unauthorized sale, change or transfer of property titles
- Contractor/Handyman – payment for services not completed or rendered at all
- Lottery/Contest Scams – making a payment to receive “winnings”
- Online/Electronic Scams – responding to phishing schemes via phone, text or email
- Mortgage – unauthorized loans issued against property
- Investment – unauthorized investments, paying commissions, excessive trading
- Insurance – unauthorized purchase of long-term policies or “trading” of existing policies
Since financial elder abuse is very common, it is often easy to overlook. To protect our aging populations’ financial health, before it is lost to schemers and cheats, it is important to know and then watch out for “signs” of financial abuse.
Signs of Financial Abuse
Overall, those most at risk for financial abuse are those who live in isolation, are dependent upon others for daily activities, or experience any degree of mental decline. To determine if financial abuse is occurring, watch for the following “red flags”:
- Writing checks to “cash”
- New friends/acquaintances are making decisions on behalf of the individual
- Unexpected changes to bank accounts (e.g. amounts, who has access to funds)
- Missing valuables
- Changes to wills or other financial documents
- Unanticipated transfer of assets to family or “friend”
If any of these signs are indicated, it is important to notify the family of the victim. If you suspect the senior citizen’s family is victimizing them, notify Adult Protective Services, local law enforcement, or the senior’s financial institution.
If financial abuse is suspected, but lacks concrete evidence, a licensed private investigator can help obtain proof.
Prevent Financial Abuse
As with any type of abuse, prevention is always the best policy. Be sure to protect the financial health of aging loved ones by:
- Establishing a trusted power of attorney and health care-related wishes while they are mentally sharp
- Making sure to “check-in” on a regular basis (e.g. phone calls, visits, texts/emails)
- Getting to know the caregiver(s) so they know someone is “watching”
- Signing up for a service to track financial activity that will notify a designated advocate of unusual withdrawals or spending
- Setting up direct deposits/payments so check abuse is taken out of the equation
Whether we are family or a concerned acquaintance, it is up to us to protect our elderly from financial abuse. When it comes to elder financial abuse:
- Take steps to prevent
- Watch for signs for abuse
- Act if abuse is evident
It’s the least we can do to protect those who no longer can protect themselves.
Suspect Elder Abuse? SACS Consulting Can Investigate
If you suspect someone you know or love has been abused, SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc. can help. Whether it is a criminal or civil investigation, background screenings, accident investigation, missing person, or physical and electronic surveillance, SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc. can provide fast, professional and affordable investigative services. Contact or call 330-255-1101 to speak with one of our professional investigators today.