How to Protect Elderly Relatives and Friends against Financial Fraud and Abuse

In addition to being physically and emotionally abused, elderly people are susceptible and vulnerable to financial fraud and exploitation. Financial abuse of the elderly occurs when a person takes advantage of their property, investments, cash or real estate. Financial fraud often comes in the form of telemarketing scams, identify theft, property theft and scams involving unscrupulous contractors and financial advisors. However, according to elder law attorney Steven Peck, about 75 percent of financial abuse cases involve relatives.

New York City elder law attorney Bernard Krooks points out that many family members who are caretakers often feel entitled when it comes to taking money from an elderly relative under their care. Krooks states, “We see a lot of cases where kids help themselves with the intention of paying the money back. It becomes a bad habit. You don’t have an entitlement to dip into mom’s bank account just because you’re taking care of her.”

As the prevalence of financial elder abuse continues to grow, there are several sign that people can look for to spot potential exploitation of an elderly friend or relative. For instance, elderly people may be being taken advantage of it they lack needed items such as food and clothing. Unfamiliar signatures on financial documents and checks may be a sign of financial abuse. Moreover, elderly people who make large withdrawals from their bank accounts may be the victims of a scam. According to Kathleen Quinn, executive director of the National Adult Protection Services Association, staying in contact with elderly friends and relatives is key to spotting warning signs of financial exploitation. She said, “Reducing isolation is the number one thing to do.”

There are several steps people can take to prevent financial abuse. First, a person should be given power of attorney to oversee an elderly person’s finances. According to Paul Greenwood, deputy district attorney in San Diego, power of attorney should be granted to an estate attorney and not a relative. Moreover, the power of attorney agreement should require periodic reports on the elderly person’s financial affairs. In addition, family members should require stringent background checks of any caregivers. To protect their property and identity, valuable should be locked in a safe place and documents should be shredded. Finally, Greenwood recommends that elderly people should get caller ID to screen for telemarketers and to keep track of suspicious callers. Greenwood said, “Crooks love the telephone. It is now their weapon of choice.”

Website Resource: Preventing financial elder abuse

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