What Is Elder Financial Exploitation?


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Elder financial exploitation targets elderly individuals, often because of a perceived vulnerability on the part of the abuser. Exploitation may be committed by someone close to the elderly individual, such as a relative or caretaker, or it can be committed by a stranger in another country. There may be legal options available to a person who is the victim of elder financial exploitation.

Definition of Financial Exploitation

Financial exploitation occurs when a person takes or misuses the assets of an elderly individual for his or her own personal gain. This may occur without the elderly individualís permission or when the elderly individual does not have the legal capacity to understand what the person is doing.

How Assets Are Misused

Assets may be misused in a variety of ways. Sometimes assets are outright stolen. This may involve taking the assets without the elderly individualís knowledge, such as taking cash, personal property or medication. Sometimes assets are taken as a result of intimidation, duress, threats or coercion. A person may threaten that he or she will no longer take care of the elderly individual if he or she does not give the asset to the individual. Other assets are taken on the basis of fraud or false pretenses. A person may lie to an elderly individual to gain access to the assets. The person may make unauthorized checks to himself or a third party or may lie about an investment.

Another way that a person may misuse an elderly individualís assets is to secure a power of attorney. They may then use this power of attorney to act in the elderly individualís name, such as transferring the elderly individualís real property to him or her. The individual may also coerce the elderly individual to change his or her estate plan and name him or her as a beneficiary in a trust or will.

For misuse by third parties like contractors, telemarketers, salespeople, lawyers, financial planners or investors, the misuse may take a variety of forms. Contractors may visit the elderly individual and convince him or her of the need for unnecessary repairs and may place a lien on the elderly individualís property. A telemarketer may call or mail the elderly individual fictitious information about a lottery. Email phishing scams may steal personal information. Financial or insurance products may be sold to the elderly individual that are not in compliance with regulatory requirements or that include excessive fees.

Identity of the Abuser

About 90 percent of financial abusers are people familiar to the victim such as neighbors, caregivers or friends, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse.

Warning Signs for Elder Financial Exploitation

If you are concerned about elder financial exploitation, there are warning signs that you may want to carefully watch for, including:

Lack of Knowledge about Finances

If the elderly individual is not knowledgeable about his or her finances, this can create a vulnerability that makes him or her susceptible to elder abuse. This may indicate that a person is starting to lose capacity or that someone else has taken over the finances that you are unaware of. Additionally, if the person recently lost a spouse who managed the finances, this can be a vulnerable time. The finances of the elderly individual should be examined and monitored if this sign is present.

Physical Frailty

Another potential vulnerability is if the elderly individual has experienced physical disabilities. He or she may be unable to manage affairs to the same degree when going through this. Because the elderly individual may not be able to complete some of the same maintenance issues in his or her home, he or she may bring more service providers into the home and one of these individuals may take advantage of him or her.

Lack of Contact with Others

Abusers try to isolate their victims and also target individuals who are alone because it is more likely their crimes will go unreported. An elderly person in a nursing home who is not visited by loved ones can be a perfect target for these abusers who exploits the isolation and tries to infiltrate the elderly individualís life.

Sudden Involvement by Another

The sudden presence of a new person may be a warning that a person has infiltrated the elderly individualís life and may be taking over. This could be a new acquaintance or the sudden involvement of a relative who previously did not have much of a relationship with the person. A caregiver may start to take over, too.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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