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What to Do If You Suspect an Elder is Being Financially Exploited

Unfortunately, elder abuse is a serious issue in both New York and the rest of the country. The Adult Protective Services Association reports that most elder financial abuse occurs inside the circle of trusted friends and family.

Our elders are often a source of comfort, affection, and unwavering encouragement. Unfortunately, there are some predators who target the elderly. What should you do if you feel an elderly family member or friend is being exploited financially? There are several steps that can be taken to stop or lessen the damage done to an elderly loved one. One of these is to contact an experienced elder abuse lawyer, like those at Dalli & Marino, LLP, who will provide you with the support and knowledge you may need to get compensation.

What Is Elderly Financial Exploitation?

The elderly, who are generally those aged 65 and above, are easy targets for thieves, as they often have significant assets that they have spent a lifetime building, such as cash, a home, or government assistance money. Unfortunately, many elders can be targets because they are either more trusting in general, or because their memory or cognitive abilities have weakened.

One form of elder abuse is financial exploitation, which is when someone illegally obtains money or property from an elderly person using that person’s financial information. It is a common tactic for financial gain or to deprive the elderly person of their possessions forever. This can take place in the form of scams, asking for donations, or burglary.

Common Forms of Elderly Financial Exploitation

Swindling an elderly person often begins with the scammer obtaining access to the victim’s personal information using deception or physical coercion. If the victim refuses to provide money immediately, many thieves often resort to more violent means to get what they want.

Mailings, phone calls, or in-person visits are common entry points into these scams targeting the elderly. Scammers can pose as representatives of legitimate businesses or as government authorities and threaten older adults with severe consequences if they do not pay a certain sum.

Financial abuse has grown more common due to several circumstances. Longevity has increased in the general population, yet the benefits they get from Social Security may not be sufficient for certain older adults. Therefore, individuals can be more likely to fall for lottery or sweepstakes scams that promise large payouts in exchange for a little initial investment.

Elderly victims can also be taken advantage of by being convinced to purchase a fake or substandard product or service, such as a vacation package that never comes to fruition or a home repair that is never completed. The elderly person, however, is unaware that there is no commercial potential in these ventures.

Guidelines for Responding to Suspicion of Elder Financial Abuse or Exploitation

There are several ways that you can respond in the event that you suspect your elderly loved one is being exploited for financial gain. These guidelines include:

Make a Report to Law Enforcement

Many state attorneys’ offices, district attorneys’ offices, and police departments have specialized units to deal with elder abuse and exploitation. They have access to detectives, legal counsel, and police who can look into the claims, question potential witnesses, and compile evidence to determine whether seniors are in danger or have been financially abused.

Make Sure Caregivers Are Honest and Responsible

A senior is more at risk of being abused if only one person has access to their finances than if many are keeping tabs on the accounts. In cases where a single person has been designated to handle all of the senior’s financial dealings, it is still in the senior’s best interest to keep tabs on their finances or to have someone else do so on their behalf.

Additionally, having funds audited regularly can help guarantee that the money is being spent for the senior’s benefit. Oftentimes, financial exploitation of the elderly can be prevented if accountability and openness are maintained.

Always Inquire and Ask Questions

Asking the correct questions and gathering additional information can help end some types of financial exploitation. Trust your gut feelings if anything appears odd about an older adult or their money. The quicker you take action, the better your chances are of mitigating financial abuse.

Contact a Lawyer

You should seek the advice of an attorney if you suspect that a member of your family is a victim or target of financial abuse. Lawyers have the means to amass the evidence necessary to bring those guilty to justice.

Effects of Financial Exploitation on the Elderly

The consequences of the financial exploitation of the elderly can go well beyond the actual money lost. Below are some of the effects of elderly financial exploitation:

  • Disillusionment within one’s social circle, including one’s closest relatives and friends
  • Stress and lack of resources for treatment and nutrition, which may contribute to deteriorating physical health
  • Failure to make ends meet, including the loss of a house, automobile, or not being able to pay off debts
  • Having to rely on the government for support
  • Feelings of sadness, guilt, rage, or other distressing emotions

Just because financial abuse mainly focuses on monetary aspects of a person’s life doesn’t mean that it can’t be debilitating in other ways. This is why contacting a lawyer can also be especially beneficial, as your loved one may be able to recover non-economic losses as well.

How Does One Provide Evidence of Elderly Financial Abuse?

A breach of fiduciary responsibility occurs if a guardian or agent fails to act in the person’s best interests. When an older adult’s mental abilities deteriorate so they can no longer make vital choices about their money and health, trusted family and friends can be granted legal authority. Common legal mechanisms for accomplishing this task include guardianship and powers of attorney. However, just because these people are granted these rights does not always mean that they have their aging loved one’s best interests in mind.

It is necessary to demonstrate one or more of the following to prove senior financial exploitation or a violation of a fiduciary or another person’s trust happened:

  • Modifications or increases in spending
  • An unknown party augmented the senior’s bank accounts.
  • Sudden lack of health care or inability to pay for it
  • Variations in the senior’s character
  • Overly generous monetary or gift contributions
  • Revisions to the elderly person’s will
  • Withdrawal of a large sum of money from accounts

This type of evidence is often easier to have proof for, as there generally are records denoting any potential changes or cessations of this type of spending or care.

Dalli & Marino, LLP Can Help With Elderly Financial Abuse Cases

Do you worry about an elderly loved one and don’t know what to do if you suspect financial abuse? We at Dalli & Marino, LLP are experienced and Spanish-speaking lawyers who work hard to help clients who suspect elder abuse. We can assist you in the necessary investigation to ensure the financial safety of your loved one. Our firm represents claimants in civil financial exploitation of elderly cases brought by victims seeking compensation.

Contact our legal experts online for a free consultation, or contact us by calling (888) 465-8790. We can help provide the support and knowledge you deserve.

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