Elder financial exploitation is a prevalent issue of increasing concern, and can occur a number of ways. Elder financial exploitation occurs when someone who is authorized to manage an elder individual’s money makes unauthorized expenditure of funds, or fail to use funds for the elder’s needs. It also occurs when someone without legal authority uses or disposes of an elder’s money.
Elder financial exploitation also takes places when someone acquires possession or control of an elder’s funds or property through pressure, deception, or fraud – this can occur through theft, deceit, tricks or scams.
Here are some tips to help prevent you, or a loved one, from becoming a victim of financial exploitation:
Know the Risk Factors
If you know what risk factors exist that cause an elder to be more susceptible to financial exploitation, you will know when you may want to pay special attention. Some risk factors include:
- Recent Losses
- Physical or Mental Disabilities
- Lack of familiarity with financial matters
- Family members who are unemployed, living with the elder etc.
Recognize the Warning Signs
It is important to recognize the warning signs of elder financial exploitation. Some of these include:
- Life circumstances don’t match what is known about the individual’s financial situation;
- Large withdrawals are made from bank accounts, accounts are being switched, or there is unusual ATM activity;
- Signatures on checks do not match the older person’s signature;
- The elder is, or those close to them or trying to help them are, denied basic financial information;
- Bills are left unpaid;
- There are abrupt asset transfers and/or changes to an important document (such as a Power of Attorney);
- The elder individual is asked to co-sign on documents;
- Cues are made while the elder is speaking – through stories or comments.
Identify Potential Scams
Con artists and scammers profile for elder individuals – it is not by coincidence that when someone turns 65 years old they start receiving targeted mailing, phone calls, and door knockings. Some cons and scams to question or avoid include:
- “Relative in Need”
- This can occur by phone call, mail or email. One example is an elder individual receiving a call from someone who says, “Hello Grandpa, it’s me.” The individual answering the phone then answers, “Billy? Is that you?”, and the scam continue from there. I have met individuals who have fallen victim to this type of scam, and individuals who have avoided being exploited by asking the caller to answer personal questions, such as when their birthday is.
- Lotteries and Sweepstakes are often targeted towards elder individuals, to exploit fear or insecurity they may have about funding their long term care and/or retirement. It is important to view such appeal skeptically.
- Home Improvement
- It was not too long ago that a group of individuals were going door to door in the twin cities, targeting elders regarding what they sold as necessary roof repairs. After taking hundreds or thousands of dollars from unexpecting victims, the “company” then made minor changes to the victims’ roofs, claiming to have made substantial repairs.
- “Free Lunch” or “Free Trip”
- Oftentimes seminars or events will be put on offering “Free Lunch” or a “Free Trip.” While these may very well be informative and helpful seminars, they can also become high-pressure sales situations in which vulnerable individuals are sold things they do not need or want, or charged prices/fees that are unethically high.
- Identity Theft
- If you receive a phone call, mailing, or any request for financial and/or personal information – be extremely cautious before divulging such information. If the requesting party is someone you do not know, or do not remember doing business with, do not give them the information they are requesting until you can clarify their need for it further. Do not hesitate to reach out to others to ask questions if you are unsure, or look into whether they have been reported as a scam.
- Fake “official” Mail
- Scam companies may send out mail that looks official – requesting personal and/or financial information, or demanding payment. If the letter is from an entity or organization you do not recognize, investigate further. If anything seems odd about the mailing, question it further.
- Drugs Plans/Insurance
- There are a lot of companies selling insurance and drug plans to elder individuals. It is important to work with a professional you trust or have a long standing relationship with. If you are offered an insurance or drug coverage plan, do not hesitate to run it past family members, your financial planner and your attorney before proceeding.
Complete Your Estate Plan
Having an estate plan in place can help to prevent elder financial exploitation. By executing a power of attorney, you are able to name who will be authorized to manage or assist with your finances. This decision should be made carefully, and only someone who you trust will be responsible with this task should be named as attorney in fact. In addition, trusts can be established to hold assets and set provisions as to how the money is spent.
If you believe you, or someone you know, may be a victim of financial exploitation, contact an elder law attorney and report your concern to Adult Protective Services. Schromen Law, LLC assists clients in addressing concerns of financial exploitation and providing appropriate resources.
The material contained herein is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to create or constitute an attorney-client relationship between Schromen Law, LLC and the reader. The information contained herein is not offered as legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice.