Elder Exploitation: Financial Abuse is Still Abuse

The word “abuse” encompasses a wide range of behaviors. Probably the most commonly thought of scenario involves physical violence or verbal aggression. It brings to mind terrible news stories of “child abuse” or “sexual abuse.” It may even conjure up thoughts of neglect, which is often closely linked with caring for children, senior citizens, or pets. What’s not usually in the forefront is financial abuse, yet this sort of mistreatment of the elderly is incredibly common and happens right under our noses. In fact, the Executive Director of the National Adult Protective Services Association called it “rampant, largely invisible, expensive and lethal.” 

So, what, exactly, falls under the umbrella of elder financial exploitation? The Older Americans Act of 2006 defines it as “the fraudulent or otherwise illegal, unauthorized, or improper act or process of an individual, including a caregiver or fiduciary, that uses the resources of an older individual for monetary or personal benefit, profit, or gain, or that results in depriving an older individual of rightful access to, or use of, benefits, resources, belongings, or assets.” The purposeful and harmful mishandling of an elderly person’s financial resources may stem from predatory strangers or from personal relationships that carry expectations of trust.

Elder financial abuse can manifest itself in a number of ways, including:

  • Taking a senior’s money or property
  • Using a senior’s property without their permission
  • Promising care in exchange for money or property, then not following through
  • Forging a senior’s signature
  • Deceptively getting a senior to sign a deed, will, or power of attorney
  • Refusing to obtain needed care for the senior in order to keep more assets available for misappropriation
  • Using lies and scare tactics to scam seniors into sending money.

A 2011 study determined that financial exploitation costs seniors at least $2.9 billion annually, while a 2015 study determined that the cost was a whopping $36.5 billion each year. The actual number likely lies somewhere in the middle, especially given the reluctance of many elderly people (and the inability of others) to report when they have been subjected to this type of abuse. It’s also hard for some to admit it when the offenders are family members. Taking financial advantage of an elderly relative may occur when the person feels justified in taking what they believe is rightfully theirs or wants to prevent others from getting it.

It has been estimated that 70 percent of the United States’ wealth is controlled by individuals over the age of 50. However, many seniors don’t quite realize the value of their property and possessions, making them attractive targets for financial exploitation. Also, advances in technology have made money management more complicated. If you are concerned about an elderly loved one’s financial well-being, look for patterns that might indicate abuse, such as unpaid bills, large sums being taken out of bank accounts, missing possessions, or the person not being aware of the arrangements that were made.

We Can Help

If you have any questions about this topic, or believe that your elderly loved one has been financially exploited, the elder abuse attorneys at the Johnson Law Firm can help. Since 1998, we have been the trusted advocates for countless personal injury victims and their families throughout Kentucky. We offer risk-free consultations and work on a contingency basis, which means that we do not require you to pay any fees until we have secured a recovery on your behalf. We encourage you to contact us today by calling 1-855-433-7532 or filling out our free case evaluation form.

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