Elder abuse is a growing problem, and may only worsen as America’s baby boomer population ages. One of the most common forms of elder abuse is financial exploitation.
Elder financial exploitation is defined as the illegal or improper use of an elder’s funds, property, or assets. Some examples involve deception, such as forgery and theft. Others are the product of coercion, such as forcing an older person to sign a document that is financial in nature (e.g. wills, contracts).
How to Spot Financial Exploitation
An unexplained sudden transfer of assets is one sign of potential financial exploitation, especially when coupled with the sudden appearance of previously absent parties claiming rights to an elder’s property. Other warning signs include sudden changes in banking behavior, unexplained withdrawals of funds, and the inclusion of additional names to an elder’s debit or credit card. This is by no means an exhaustive list – there is no shortage of methods in which the unscrupulous have taken advantage of the elderly. Three recent incident are all too telling:
Aurora, IL – A 25-year-old caregiver has been charged with financial exploitation of the elderly and aggravated identity theft. Accused of stealing more than $10,000, the caregiver allegedly used her elderly employer’s credit card to buy clothing, household goods, and other items.
Tacoma, WA – A couple lost their home of 45 years and an estimated $300,000 in a case of alleged elder abuse. Only $374 remained in their bank account when the couple died within a month of each other.
Kansas City, MO – The long-time financial advisor of a 95-year-old woman is accused of embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from her, depriving her children and grandchildren of their inheritances. A civil suit has been brought against the advisor.
The Cost of Elder Financial Abuse
A 2009 study estimated the financial loss from abuse to be at least $2.6 billion a year. Even that staggering figure is likely well short of the actual figure, as financial elder abuse is believed to be an incredibly under-reported problem. In Illinois, there were 6,205 reports of suspected financial abuse and exploitation of senior citizens in 2011 alone. These numbers reflect a rise, and financial exploitation accounts for nearly 60 percent of reported abuse cases against elders.
If you believe that you or a loved one has been the victim of misconduct or financial exploitation, you may have a claim. Please feel free to contact an experienced attorney at Levin & Perconti today.