Financial abuse is perhaps the most common form of mistreatment affecting seniors. Sadly, many people are willing to act inappropriately when money is on the line, and the elderly often make ripe targets. They frequently have access to sizeable funds–usually for their retirement–and may have cognitive challenges–like dementia–which can be exploited.
The financial abuse comes in different forms. At times they involve crimes of convenience. That refers to situations where wrongdoers–often caregivers, friends, or family members–decide to take finances once they are presented with the opportunity. For example, a relative may be given access to the senior’s checkbook to help pay bills. Once they obtain it, though, they may begin writing checks fraudulently. This is different than intentional scams, where individuals specifically interact with the senior with the underlying purpose of bilking them out of money. Both forms of mistreatment are crimes, and both need to be guarded against.
A recent Financial Adviser article helpful provided some examples of situations where advisors identified suspicious activity involving a senior client. The stories are heartbreaking. For example, in one case a “friend” moved into the home a senior who lived alone. The elderly woman was recently widowed. The friend gained access to the seniors funds and began taking weekly trips to the casino using her money. Eventually the woman’s entire retirement account was virtually drained.
In another case seniors was targeted by a predatory financial advisor. Two couples in their 80s were sold an “annuities” package. However, the package was obviously ill-fitted for them, because it required them to pay significant funds while receiving minimal cash flow out. There were severe penalties for withdrawing the funds. These options are made for those who are much younger and can afford to sacrifice cash flow for long-term gain. The annuity was incredibly harmful for seniors in their 80s who need money to live off immediately. However, because the seniors were financially naive and did not consult outside legal help ahead of time, the annuity salesperson roped them into the agreement that severely harmed their financial security.
In that case, an observer caught onto the problem and actually contacted state financial and banking regulatory entities to, hopefully, put an end to the problem. However, the state regulators explained that because the couple signed the agreements–and were theoretically made aware of the details of the situation–there was nothing that could be done. The situation is a reminder of the complexity of much exploitation, with senior’s trusting nature and confusion about challenging financial details being used to bump up sales totals for others.
It is worth reading more of the examples provided to get an idea of the various ways that seniors may be exploited financially. The author noted that in many cases it takes significant interaction with a senior over a period of time to understand if a problem is amiss. Many seniors do not seem to have any vulnerabilities, but it is only after understanding their routine and then observing changes to that routine that real problems can be spotted. Our Chicago elder abuse attorneys urge everyone to be on the lookout for those irregularities and to act appropriately if identified.
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