Elder Law

Financial Elder Abuse

Not all abuse is physical. Taking advantage of someone to get at their money or property can also be a type of abuse. Financial abuse or economic abuse involves manipulation or control over someone’s financial resources. Financial abuse can involve tricking someone out of their money, extortion, or common theft.

Older people can be targets for financial abuse. If you suspect an older family member is a victim of financial exploitation or want to protect someone from elder abuse, talk to an elder abuse attorney where you live for legal advice.

What Is Elder Financial Abuse?

Financial abuse can be a type of elder abuse. According to the Older Americans Act, financial exploitation means using an older adult’s financial resources for personal gain.

According to the National Council on Aging, elder financial abuse and fraud can cost $2.6 billion to $36.5 billion annually. But not all financial abuse is reported, and the actual accounts of financial exploitation can be much higher. Some victims of abuse may be afraid of reporting elder fraud to the local police because of shame.

Who Can Take Advantage of Older People?

Elder financial abuse can involve known persons or total strangers. Strangers who try to take advantage of older people can use online or phone scams to exploit their victims. Examples of these scams include callers pretending they are from the government, charity, sweepstakes, or saying a family member needs money overseas. These often convince the person to buy a gift card and send the scammer the information.

A lot of elder abuse involves someone the person knows, including family members, financial advisors, health care workers, caretakers, friends, or even domestic partners. Adult children may offer to try to help older adults with their credit card accounts, bank accounts, or unpaid bills, only to take advantage of their trust.

What Are the Warning Signs of Financial Exploitation?

Some vulnerable adults may be at greater risk of financial abuse, including people with cognitive impairment, physical disabilities, and people who are socially isolated. In some cases, the victims are unaware they are being exploited.

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, financial abuse was the most commonly reported form of elder abuse reported on the NCEA resource line. There are red flags of possible financial abuse of elderly persons. According to the Department of Justice, warning signs can include:

  • Sudden changes in banking practices or opening new accounts
  • Unexplained withdrawal of large sums of money
  • Added names on a bank credit card
  • Unexplained changes in a will or other financial documents
  • The disappearance of valuables
  • The sudden appearance of uninvolved relatives

What Should You Do If You Suspect Financial Abuse?

If you suspect elder financial exploitation, report it to law enforcement or your local adult protective services (APS) hotline. Your local APS can help older people at risk of abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

Elder financial abuse can involve theft, embezzlement, or fraud, and it is a crime. A victim of financial abuse may also be able to file a civil lawsuit against the thief to recover compensation and hold them accountable for their actions.

How Can an Elder Law Attorney Help?

If you want to protect an older family member from financial fraud, an elder law attorney with experience representing victims of financial abuse can help. An attorney can explain your legal options and what estate planning tools you can use to provide for your loved one and protect their finances. If necessary, they can also file a civil lawsuit to recover damages.

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