How to Identify and Stopping Financial Abuse of the Elderly

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How to Identify and Stopping Financial Abuse of the Elderly

How to Identify and Stopping Financial Abuse of the Elderly

As we age may begin to lose, or we may have already lost, some of our cognitive ability and our judgment may become clouded. Therefore it has become all too common for the elderly to become victims of financial abuse. A perpetrator of elder abuse can be anyone from a stranger to a friend, a caretaker, a relative, or even a once trusted financial advisor.
As people grow older, they often grow dependent on others for their care. Part of that care often means having someone help or assist them with their finances. Financial abuse of the elderly knows no boundaries. It can occur when someone steals or embezzles money, Social Security checks, or other property from an older person. It can be as simple as taking money from a wallet or manipulating a victim to turn over or sell personal property or belongings. In many cases, the financial abuse is done by someone the victim knows and trusts. Family members commit more than half of the crimes of financial abuse of the elderly, according to the National Association of Adult Protective Services Administrators.
Often the elderly are afraid to report this abuse, fearing that their children will consider them too demanding or unfit to handle their finances. They may fear losing an important part of their independence and can be embarrassed that they can't handle the situation themselves. Americans over the age of 55 control 70 percent of the nation's wealth. Many of the elderly do not realize the value of their assets and how those assets make them vulnerable. A recent FBI investigation found that fraudulent telemarketers were directing nearly 80 percent of their calls to seniors; the elderly are often dependent on others for help, and a "helpful" voice at the end of the telephone line can exert a significant influence.

How to Detect Financial Abuse and What to Do About It


There are many signs to watch for in detecting financial abuse of the elderly. Someone could force an elderly person to sell or give away property or to sign a power of attorney. Valuable objects may start to disappear. There may be unusual activity in bank accounts, such as sudden withdrawals of large amounts, many checks made out to cash, and low bank balances when there should be plenty of available funds. A new "best friend" or "sweetheart" might appear on the scene. Signatures on checks do not resemble the older person's signature. A name may be added to an older person's bank account.
There are several ways to prevent this financial abuse. One way is to have several family members be involved with the older person. Encourage the elderly to become involved with the community, senior centers, or religious groups, which all can provide a strong support system. Take advantage of direct deposit of income checks, including Social Security and dividends. Carefully screen and verify caregivers' references and do a thorough background check.
Any person who suspects that financial abuse has occurred should report it either to her local police department or to a trusted social worker or adult child, assuming the child is not also the abuser. When in doubt, err on the side of caution. Financial abuse can continue and can escalate if there is no intervention. Reporting the abuse and intervening in time can save the assets, health and dignity of the elderly.

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