5 Common Types of Financial Elder Abuse
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5 Common Types of Financial Elder Abuse

Senior Woman Giving Credit Card Details On The PhoneFinancial exploitation of older adults is a growing threat to our nation’s aging population, sparking authorities to call the problem “rampant, invisible and lethal.” Research gleaned in a 2010 Elder Fraud Survey found that at least one in five Americans over the age of 65 has been victimized by financial abuse or fraud – a scourge that by some estimates is costing our seniors nearly $37 billion a year.

According to the National Adult Protective Services Association, financial elder abuse is vastly underreported and remains a serious concern among seniors with mild to moderate cognitive impairments.  Seniors who are having troubles with critical thinking skills or memory are more vulnerable to manipulation by trusted loved ones, family members, friends, doctors, caregivers as well as professional predators who target the elderly in variety of scams.

Older adults are attractive targets for financial exploitation for a slew of reasons. They control the vast majority of our nation’s wealth; some do not know the real value of their property and assets; they have disabilities that make them dependent on others for assistance; they are less likely to suspect or report instances of financial abuse, and computer technology has made managing finances too complex for many older adults.

Common types of financial exploitation of seniors

Elder financial abuse takes many forms, and can be perpetrated by relatives, spouses, as well as predatory professionals who purposefully exploit vulnerable seniors.

Some of the most common examples include:

  • Grandparent scams – the perpetrator calls an elder claiming to be their grandson or granddaughter in a dire emergency situation, and asks for a bank or wire transfer to help them out.
  • Lottery or Sweepstake scams – the perpetrator calls the target, saying they have won a nonexistent lottery or prize and needs the senior’s checking account number or credit card information to pay for shipping. Alternatively, they may ask for the victim to wire money to cover the custom fees for a foreign prize.
  • Telemarketing scams/mail fraud – perpetrator encourages an older adult to purchase a nonexistent product, invest in a fictitious enterprise or donate their money to a bogus charity.
  • Annuity scams – Unscrupulous agents persuade senior clients to invest in expensive annuities that will not mature for another 10-15 years, when the victim is too old to reap the benefits.
  • Financial exploitation from family members – who pressure their parent for a big loan and never repay it; or misuse a Power of Attorney to spend money for their own use; stealing ATM cards to make secret withdrawals or forging signatures to cash checks. Offenders often employ intimidation, deceit, emotional abuse or the promise of lifelong care in pressuring their victims to sign over property, open a joint bank account, or naming them beneficiaries in wills.

Sadly, financial exploitation is one of the most prevalent forms of elder abuse today. Financial abuse can have a devastating impact on seniors, leaving them without the economic means to provide for their long-term needs and reliant on federally-funded programs. Many victims become isolated, suffer depression and feelings of shame, worthlessness and guilt.

Legal assistance from elder abuse lawyers

California has enacted statutes that specifically address elder financial abuse, offering legal remedies to those who have been defrauded of their property, money or assets. Under the Welfare and Institutions Code § 15657.7, there is a four-year time limit for pursuing financial abuse cases. 

Ellis Law Corporation is dedicated to assisting older victims of financial crimes. For more than 25 years, our legal team has been advocating for seniors throughout southern California. Call 1-800-INJURED to consult with a California elder abuse lawyer today.

Additional “Elder Financial Exploitation” Resources:

  1. National Adult Protective Services Association, Elder Financial Exploitation http://www.napsa-now.org/policy-advocacy/exploitation/
  2. CA Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, Elder Financial Abuse Litigation Guide https://www.ioaging.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Financial-Abuse-An-Advocate-s-Guide.pdf
  3. National Institute of Justice, Financial Exploitation of the Elderly https://www.nij.gov/topics/crime/elder-abuse/pages/financial-exploitation.aspx
  4. Grantmakers in Aging, Elder Investment Fraud and Financial Exploitation http://www.giaging.org/documents/EIFFE_Survey_Report.pdf