Recognize and Prevent Elder Financial Abuse
Yesterday was World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. There can be many ways the elderly are abused by family or those close to them. Let’s look at abuse from a financial aspect.
Financial abuse can be a complicated subject, but at its most basic level it involves taking advantage of an older adult through manipulation or intimidation to steal their money or property.
Elderly adults are some of the most vulnerable to financial abuse. Some of the biggest risk factors for older adults include:
Isolation can cause extreme loneliness in seniors, leaving them desperate for any sort of social connection. Many abusers target elder adults for this reason.
• Lack of knowledge of financial matters
Elder adults who don’t pay much attention to or don’t understand financial issues can be tricked into giving over secure information.
Whether the older adult has a physical or mental disability, they are dependent on others to take care of themselves. This leaves them vulnerable to manipulation and intimidation by caregivers. Disability can also make an elder adult seem less likely to take action against the abuser.
Who is most likely to abuse?
Unfortunately, abusers are rarely unknown to the abused. In fact, those who are most likely to abuse are the ones who are closest to the elder individual or someone that he or she trusts. The most common financial abusers include:
• Family members
Family members can have different motivations for committing financial abuse. They may feel entitled to their relative’s money or property, especially if they are due to inherit from the elder or are in a caretaking position.
A caretaker can be a family member or someone who is paid to provide care to an older adult in the elder’s own home. As such, a caretaker is the person who has the most access to the elder.
• Professionals in whom the elder trusts
Professionals are people in whom the elder adult depends on to take care of the things he or she is not capable of handling alone anymore. These services can range from attorneys to someone your relative hires to take care of the lawn. Abusers can take advantage of older adults by overcharging for services or manipulating them into signing documents that they don’t understand.
• Scammers and con artists
Some predators prey specifically on elder adults, counting on their social isolation and lack of knowledge about financial matters to be able to gain access to their victim and their financial assets.
What types of financial abuse exist?
Financial abuse can take different forms, depending on the relation of the abuser to the elder adult. Common tactics include (but are not limited to):
• Theft of money or property
• Using manipulation or intimidation to force him or her to sign legal/financial documents
• Forging his or her signature
• Telemarketing and email scams
How can you prevent financial abuse of elders?
The best thing that you can do to prevent elder financial abuse is to keep your older relative or friend from being isolated. Check in regularly, make sure you know who has access to him or her, and know the signs of financial abuse. Keep an eye out for suspicious signatures on checks, suddenly unpaid bills, and new and unexplained “friends.” By knowing the signs, you can help prevent the financial abuse of your loved one.