Financial exploitation is a fast-growing form of abuse of seniors and adults with disabilities. Situations of financial exploitation commonly involve trusted persons in the life of the vulnerable adult, such as caretakers, family members, neighbors, friends and acquaintances, attorneys, bank employees, pastor, doctors or nurses.
Who is at risk?
The following conditions or factors increase an older person’s risk of being victimized:
- Recent losses
- Physical or mental disabilities
- Lack of familiarity with financial matters
- Have family members who are unemployed and/or have substance abusers problems
Why are the elderly attractive targets?
- Persons over the age of 50 control over 70% of the nation’s wealth
- Many seniors do not realize the value of their assets (particularly homes that have appreciated markedly)
- The elderly are likely to have disabilities that make them dependent on others for help. These “helpers” may have access to homes and assets, and may exercise significant influence over the older person
- They may have predictable patterns (e.g. because older people are likely to receive monthly checks, abusers can predict when an older people will have money on hand or need to go to the bank)
- Severely impaired individuals are also less likely to take action against their abusers as a result of illness or embarrassment
- Abusers may assume that frail victims will not survive long enough to follow through on legal interventions, or that they will not make convincing witnesses
- Some older people are unsophisticated about financial matters
- Advances in technology have made managing finances more complicated
What are the indicators?
Indicators are signs or clues that abuse has occurred. Some of the indicators listed below can be explained by other causes or factors and no single indicator can be taken as conclusive proof. Rather, one should look for patterns or clusters of indicators that suggest a problem.
- Unpaid bills, eviction notices, or notices to discontinue utilities
- Withdrawals from bank accounts or transfers between accounts that the older person cannot explain
- Bank statements and canceled checks no longer come to the elder’s home
- New “best friends”
- Legal documents, such as powers of attorney, which the older person didn’t understand at the time he or she signed them
- Unusual activity in the older person’s bank accounts including large, unexplained withdrawals, frequent transfers between accounts, or ATM withdrawals
- The care of the elder is not commensurate with the size of his/her estate
- A caregiver expresses excessive interest in the amount of money being spent on the older person
- Belongings or property are missing
- Suspicious signatures on checks or other documents
- Absence of documentation about financial arrangements
- Implausible explanations given about the elderly person’s finances by the elder or the caregiver
- The elder is unaware of or does not understand financial arrangements that have been made for him or her