As your parents age, a role reversal may occur that causes you to become your parents’ protector. In that role, you may find yourself worried about the possibility that your parent could become a victim of elder abuse. Sadly, elder abuse takes many forms and occurs far more often than most people realize. In an effort to help you keep your parents safe, the Riverside elder law attorneys at Dennis M. Sandoval, A Professional Law Corporation describe some of the common signs that may indicate a senior is the victim of elder financial abuse.
How Is Elder Financial Abuse Defined?
The Older Americans Act of 2006 defines elder financial abuse, or financial exploitation, 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.” Some common scenarios in which financial abuse of an elderly person may occur include:
- Family members taking advantage of an elder person’s diminished capacity to either cajole, or outright steal, money or assets.
- A caregiver using an elder person’s money without permission or taking property from the individual’s home.
- A family member or caregiver getting an elderly individual to sign documents under false pretenses that transfer assets to the perpetrator, either now or after the elderly person’s death.
- Targeting an elderly individual for financial scams, over the telephone, through the mail, on the computer, or even in person.
Elder Financial Abuse By the Numbers
Accurate figures regarding all forms of elder abuse are difficult to come by for several reasons. One of those reasons is that victims of elder abuse rarely report that abuse, either because they are embarrassed to be a victim or because they fear reprisals for speaking up. Nonetheless, experts have released some staggering estimates regarding the frequency with which elder financial abuse occurs, including:
- More than one in 10 seniors will be the victim of elder abuse
- 1 in 20 older adults indicates that some form of financial mistreatment has occurred in the recent past
- There are over 5 million instances of financial exploitation with a senior victim each year
- For every instance of elder abuse reports, as many as 14 go unreported.
- 90 percent of the perpetrators are family members
- When a family member is the perpetrator, two-thirds of the time it is an adult child or spouse of an adult child.
Why Are Older Adults Targeted?
Sadly, the elderly make particularly easy and lucrative targets for perpetrators of financial scams and exploitation. There are several reasons for this, including:
- Older individuals tend to be more trusting
- Many elderly victims suffer from dementia and/or other physical or mental disabilities that make them easier targets.
- Seniors often do not know the value of their assets, particularly when the asset is real property that has appreciated considerably.
- Seniors tend to be predictable, making them easier to victimize.
- People over 50 control over 70 percent of the nation’s wealth.
- Older individuals are much less likely to be technologically savvy, making them easier to scam.
Signs that Your Parent May Be the Victim of Elder Financial Abuse
Another reason that the elderly are frequently targeted is the fact they are less likely to report the abuse or victimization. As an adult child of a senior, that makes it even more important to remain on the look-out for signs that your parent has been victimized. Some of the most common signs of elder financial abuse include:
- Funds missing from financial accounts
- Checks missing from a check register
- Bills piling up that should have been paid
- Utilities disconnected without an explanation
- Items missing from the home
- Medications running out far ahead of the refill date
- Caregiver spending more time than necessary with your parent
- Caregiver exerting too much authority over your parent
- Withdrawal or isolation
- Secrecy regarding finances that was not there in the past
- A new “love interest” your parent has met
If you do recognize any of these signs, or anything else makes you suspicious, try and talk to your parent. You may also wish to report your suspicions to the appropriate law enforcement agency as well as consult with an experienced elder law attorney to discuss your legal options.
Contact Riverside Elder Law Attorneys
If you have additional questions or concerns regarding elder financial abuse, contact the experienced Riverside elder law attorneys at Dennis M. Sandoval, A Professional Law Corporation by calling (951) 888-1460 to schedule an appointment.