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What Are the Risk Factors for Financial Elder Abuse?

senior woman in nursing home clasped handFinancial elder abuse is a serious and growing problem in southern California. It is estimated that roughly 5% of Americans over the age of 65 suffer financial abuse from family members and that approximately 7% are financially harmed by strangers.

What Is Financial Elder Abuse?

What does financial elder abuse mean? The term covers a wide spectrum of behaviors, ranging from outright theft of a senior citizen’s cash to withholding needed care from them in order to take the money that would need — often, money that comes from the senior citizen’s Medicare or Social Security benefits.

Financial elder abuse is financial harm. One type is done by either family members or trusted individuals such as friends, caretakers or healthcare providers.

People close to an older person may gain control of their ATM cards, bank statements, or income, and use it for their own gain. Often, the elder person is not aware of this until it is too late.

Financial advisors may inappropriately siphon off proceeds from an investment portfolio or use the funds outright. They may advise a reverse mortgage and gain title to the senior citizen’s house. They may gain control of real estate or other financial assets, sometimes by telling the senior that they will help with complicated decisions.

They may sell off possessions.

Another type of financial elder abuse is done by strangers.

These can be telemarketing scams asking for taxes to be paid immediately over the phone. (The Internal Revenue Service also communicates taxes owed by letter, not via telephone.) They may tout a stock that doesn’t exist or ask for donations to a worthy cause. In every case, the money goes to the scammers.

Fraudulent people may pose as utility or other repair people. They ring a doorbell and either ask the senior citizen to come outside and look at the problem or to pay for the repair. If the former, their valuables can be stolen. If the latter, no repair is every made.

Nationwide, elder financial abuse is estimated to cost senior citizens $2.9 billion every year.

What Are the Risk Factors?

Unfortunately, nearly every senior citizen may be at some risk. Many senior citizens have assets in their retirement accounts, monthly Social Security checks, and homes. Unscrupulous people know this.

It is possible to pinpoint special risk factor, however. Social isolation is one. If senior citizens have few family members or trusted friends around, they may be more vulnerable to abusers approaching them. They may have fewer people to bounce concerns or financial plans off of.

Unfamiliarity with their financial picture is another. People who are widowed and unaccustomed to reviewing financial accounts, for example, may be vulnerable to predatory handling and advice.

Cognitive impairment is another risk. If people cannot adequately handle their financial statements, it makes them more vulnerable.

Seniors who need help with the activities of daily life may also be at more risk. They need help, and many rely on relative strangers for assistance. This places them in a vulnerable position.

Look for the Signs of Financial Exploitation of the Elderly

It’s important to be aware of the signs of an elderly person being taking advantage of financially.

Senior citizens who have been victims of any abuse are often ashamed and frightened to tell anyone. Financial elder abuse victims are no exception. You may not hear it from them if you are a family member or friend.

Signs include health problems and mental health issues. Seniors may stop taking medication and neglect their health or fail to eat properly. They may become depressed and withdrawn, avoiding activities they formerly enjoyed.

A sudden drop in income or spending power could also be a sign. Seniors may suddenly realize they no longer have money to maintain their homes or drive a car if they have been victims of financial elder abuse.

When You Need an Elder Abuse Lawyer

Financial elder abuse is an unconscionable manipulation of vulnerable members of society. If you or a loved one have been a victim of financial elder abuse, don’t hesitate to call the Salamati Law Firm today. We are experienced Los Angeles elder abuse attorneys. We will fight to see that justice is done.

Your case will be reviewed by seasoned lawyers. An initial consultation is complimentary. We charge no fees unless we win your case.

Additional “financial elder abuse” resources:

  1. National Adult Protective Services Association. Get Involved. Elder Financial Exploitation. http://www.napsa-now.org/policy-advocacy/exploitation/
  2. Olson, Elizabeth. “Declaring War on Financial Abuse of Older People.” New York Times. April 14, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/14/business/retirement/retirement-preventing-elder-abuse.html?mcubz=0
  3. Wasik, John. “4 Risk Factors for Elder Financial Abuse.” Forbes. February 22, 2017. https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnwasik/2017/02/12/4-risk-factors-for-elder-financial-abuse/#34fd5b0c5f93
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