Financial elder abuse occurs when someone preys on a senior citizen and cheats that person out of money or property. It is a shameful crime and one that goes widely underreported. According to a 2010 report by the National Institute for Justice, “Understanding Elder Abuse”, 90% of all elder abuse cases reported to Adult Protective Services occur in a domestic situation.
Often, elderly individuals are embarrassed, conflicted about reporting a family member, or even completely unaware that they have been the victim of a crime. The sad truth is that, during difficult economic times, many people take advantage of their parents, grandparents, and even complete strangers just to make a quick buck.
On the Federal level, the Elder Justice Coordinating Council was established in 2009 as part of the Affordable Care Act. The group has made several recommendations for increased federal involvement to curtail elder abuse, including:
- Launching an elder justice website and creating a national resource center for investigating and prosecuting elder abuse
- Developing a national Adult Protective Services system
- Helping financial institutions like banks detect financial abuse
Although federal government, state agencies and financial organizations are doing what they can through the development of prevention and protection programs, the best way to prevent financial elder abuse is to educate senior citizens and the public, about how to recognize it, and the tools that are available to fight it. This is why it is especially important right now to be aware of the signs of elder abuse and protect those who may be victimized. It is usually up to other family members and close friends to notice what is going on.
Here are some signs that your loved one may be the victim of financial fraud:
- The senior’s bills aren’t being paid on time, even though he or she has the financial resources to pay them
- The senior is forced to sell or give away property
- A random individual has taken an unusual interest in the senior
- The senior seems coerced into signing over Power of Attorney
- The senior’s general financial situation suddenly changes
- The senior’s belongings or cash go missing
- The senior’s bank account has unusual activity
- The senior’s will is unexpectedly changed
- The senior is isolated from family and friends
- The senior is afraid to talk in front of their caregiver
- The senior has bought things he or she can’t use, or wouldn’t ordinarily purchase
Financial abuse is a serious crime and perpetrators can face significant jail time. It’s up to you to be conscious of the situation and report any concerns. If you live in Washington State and suspect elder abuse, call the statewide abuse hotline at 1(866)363-4276.