Elder Financial Abuse and the Burdens Associated With It
Our elderly loved ones deserve to live out the latter part of their lives in peace and security, not in fear of their lives, which makes elder abuse inexcusable. One of the fastest growing forms of elder abuse these days is elder financial abuse, in which someone either improperly or illegally takes or uses a senior’s money or property without their permission, or without them even realizing they were taken. In most states elder financial abuse is a crime, which means seniors have many methods at their disposal to deal with a scammer who takes their money.
It’s often very difficult to fight elder financial abuse, primarily because it too often goes unreported. This is because many elderly victims often feel too confused, afraid, or embarrassed by what happened to them to actually tell anyone. A recent study puts the number of cases of elder financial abuse as many as 5 million, but law enforcement generally only finds out about one out of every 25 cases that occur.
Reasons For Elder Financial Abuse
A few years back, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) published a list of characteristics that are common among people over 50 that tend to make them vulnerable to financial abuse. Much of the problem is generational; many people over 50 just have an old-fashioned view in general. For example, they expect everyone in the marketplace to be honest, assuming that they wouldn’t be in business for very long if they weren’t. Also, they’re more likely to keep things inside and are less likely to take action when someone defrauds them and they tend to be less knowledgeable of their rights in what is rapidly becoming an extremely complex economy. More basically, because elderly people are more likely to be home during the day than their younger neighbors, become easy targets for unscrupulous home solicitors and telemarketers.
The perpetrators of elder financial scams in Philadelphia may try anything; their conduct covers a very broad range. Some simply steal cash or property from them outright, or get them to pay for goods and services without actually providing them. In some cases, they may even forge a signature on a legal document, such as a deed or a will.
The most common elderly financial abuse scams in Pennsylvania include the following:
- Telemarketing fraud – This is the king of elder financial scams. The Department of Justice estimates that fraudulent telemarketers bilk American consumers for about $40 billion each year, with the AARP claiming that 80 percent of their victims are 50 or older. Common phone scams include investment and credit card fraud, lottery scams and identity theft, but telephone scammers also sell seniors goods and services that are either worthless junk or never arrive at all.
- Undue Influence – Many seniors are defrauded into parting with their homes or other property when a scammer entices a senior into signing contracts that are not in their best interest and which sometimes saddle them with high fees. Many of these scammers use legal documents like powers of attorney or wills or deeds to get hold of the property and they use lies, intimidation or threats to the seniors in order to get them to sign.
- Unsolicited Home Repairs – Often, a team of scammers will go through neighborhoods containing a large number of older residents, or they will monitor the obituaries and death notices to find the most vulnerable victims and claim that they found something that needed to be fixed.
- Price gouging – Sometimes, fast talking scammers work to convince seniors and their need for certain goods and services like a hearing aid or personal safety device and then have them sign some sort of convoluted contract in which they are overcharged by a tremendous amount, often in the form of outrageous interest charges and installment payments.
If you are a senior or someone you love is a senior and you suspect either you or they have been the victim of a scam, the first thing you should do is call the police and report it. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to discuss the issue with anyone, because a lot of people are out there who are willing to help. If you do nothing, all you’re possibly doing is making it worse, because they won’t stop with you. If they’re successful at scamming one senior, they will move forward and scam some more.
You should also notify bank personnel and give them a heads up if you believe elder financial abuse has occurred. Quite often, bank employees are in a good position to spot suspicious activity, such as an uncharacteristically large withdrawal of money or the use of a debit or credit card and ATM by an elderly person who is supposedly housebound or in a nursing home. Federal law now requires financial institutions to file a Suspicious Activity Report with the appropriate agency when they suspect elder financial abuse.
If someone you love, your parent, grandparent, or other elderly relative has been the victim of elder abuse, do not delay in contacting the Philadelphia elder abuse attorneys at Lopez McHugh LLP for help.