Articles Posted in Financial abuse and exploitation

$2.9 billion. That is how much senior Americans lose each and every year to various scams, according to MetLife’s Mature Market Institute. These scams take many different forms, from fake charity donations and false lottery winnings to unnecessary home repairs and outright theft from bank accounts. All those who care about protecting the health, well-being, and finances of local seniors should take the time to talk to loved ones about these issues.

However, it is often very difficult to have conversations with aging parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or elderly friends. That is because many seniors are understandably sensitive about their ability to handle their own affairs. After all, they likely spent a lifetime taking care of themselves through the good times and the bad, and it may come off as insensitive to suggest that their mental capacity has deteriorated in any way. The challenge of many of these conversations is one reason why many local residents may put off ensuring their loved ones financial security until it is too late.

This is a mistake. While there may be no way to completely get around some of the challenges of these conversations, they are mandatory nonetheless. In fact, new research into the causes of senior financial exploitation might actually make these conversations a bit more tolerable. That is because brain researchers are finding that susceptibility to scams is not necessarily related to mental capacity but changes in the way the brain operates in old age.

Any time is a good time to talk with the senior loved ones in your life about the possibility of senior fraud. As we have frequently discussed here, the theft of money and property from senior citizens remains an incredibly robust problem, affecting far more people than most suspect. The swindling takes many froms, from unfairly convincing seniors to give away money unnecessarily to outright theft. In virtually all cases it is criminal, but it is very difficult to identify every time that it occurs. That is why most observers continue to suggest that proactive steps need to be taken by family and friends to both guard against the financial mistreatment and identify when it has occurred.

A new story from Forbes suggests that holiday gatherings might prove a good time to address these issues. Over the next few weeks, many families will get together in various ways to commemorate the season. For that reason, it is an ideal time to careully broach the topic. Of course, bringing up questions related to senior finances and possible abuse is more of an art than a science. Asking “Have you had money taken from you unfairly in recent months?” is not likely to go over well. Instead, it is best to simply slowly ask about any recent financial opportunties or similar tangential issue that might hint at possible exploitation.

This same call is being made from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Assistant Secretary for Aging in the department recently issued a similar refrain declaring that, “this holiday season, we encourage families to spend some time asking older family members some basic questions to ensure that their finances are in good hands and that if there are signs of abuse, that the right steps are taken to stop it.”

RGJ News reported this week on another sad example of elder financial exploitation. In this case, a 59-year old healthcare worker at the Veteran Affair’s Sierra Nevada Hospital took advantage of a senior patient of the facility.

The scamming worker befriended the elderly man while assisting with his nursing needs. After the victim left the hospital the woman continued to communicate with the man, occasionally doing household chores for him. Eventually she used her influence to gain access to his bank accounts. Once she had that ability it was free reign to exploit his finances for personal gain.

All told she forged checks and withdrew money from ATMs, taking over $83,000 of the victim’s savings. She also used his debit cards to buy personal items. The thief was not apprehended until earlier this week, over 6 months after the victim’s death. She is accused of various frauds centering on her elderly financial exploitation.
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Our Chicago nursing home lawyers at Levin & Perconti spend much of our time working for victims of negligent and abusive nursing home treatment. Many seniors in nursing homes struggle every day because the care provided leaves them open to sickness, injury, and attack.

However, those seniors who remain out of nursing homes and living on their own have other vulnerabilities which are often exploited by the unscrupulous. WISTV reported on a new senior scam that is targeted at the elderly involving health care. Making decisions about Medicare coverage is an inherently tricky but important process for all seniors. Unfortunately it now also involves the risk of falling victim to a scam related to that coverage.

Reports are coming in involving scammers who are contacting elderly Americans and pretending to be Medicare employees. The callers are then asking the senior for personal and financial information related to the Medicare Part “D” prescription drug plan. When that information is given out, the scam artist can then use it to exploit the victim’s finances.

One state official explains that, “There are going to be people that give out information and have their identities used in a very inappropriate way and lose financial means over it.”
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Our Chicago nursing home lawyers at Levin & Perconti most commonly work with victims and their families following deadly medical complications or injuries that a nursing home resident suffers following abuse and neglect by the facility. However, while that might be the most common form of elder neglect that actually makes it to the courtroom, there may be other forms of abuse that occur just as frequently (if not more). One such problem is the misuse, exploitation, and downright theft of elderly financial resources.

For example, WSLS 2 News reported last week on a tragic example of financial exploitation by a former social worker. The 36-year-old abuser had spent time working for several different elderly patients. One of those patients, an 89-year old woman, ultimately had her bank account drained of almost $25,000 during a ten month period in 2009. Shortly after, the worker then used her role to take more nearly $9,000 from another elderly resident in her care. Authorities believe that the criminal used the funds for a variety of personal items like cloths and groceries.

In another care the same social worker abused her position as caregiver for a dementia patient. She wrote checks to herself without the patient’s consent and used the victim’s ATM card. The worker even went so far as lying to bank authorities to acquire new checks for the woman and then using those checks for personal items.

A troubling news story from the San Mateo Daily Journal discusses another example of financial elder abuse.

A bank teller in Redwood City is charged with felony fiscal elder abuse after she stole more $40,000 from her own aunt. While working as a teller, Arcelia Barajas Aguilar had close access to the funds of the bank customers. She was able to transfer money from one customer’s account to another. Early last month, Aguilar apparently transferred $40,000 from her aunt’s account into her own personal account.

Aguilar apparently used the money to pay down her credit card debt. Fortunately, the fraud was discovered during a bank audit. Aguilar was arrested and is now on bail. It is unclear how much money remains of the total that she stole. The judge warned the Aguilar’s sentence could ultimately be affected by the amount of restitution she is able to make-how much money she can pay back.

Nursing home abuse and exploitation takes many forms. The vulnerability of many of our elderly residents at these facilities make them prime targets for anyone who wishes to force themselves upon them because of their often mentally or physically weakness. The abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, mental, or even financial.

For example, a recent case reported at Alabama Local News involves four nursing home residents being involuntarily enrolled in insurance programs that they did not want.

Officials in the state arrested Kimberly Bisslessi Eddins last week after evidence surfaced showing that she signed up four separate residents of the nursing home Coventry Health Care for insurance. In order to receive the commissions on the sales of these insurance packages, Eddins secretly signed up the vulnerable patients for insurance coverage starting in late 2008. In total, the fraudulent sales netted Eddins over $3,800 in commissions and cost the residents untold fees in premiums.

Yesterday we posted an example of elder financial abuse involving the complex swindling a Chicago area senior citizen. In that case, the retiree was cajoled out of $500,000 after investing money with a con-man whom he assumed was using the funds to develop a construction business.

Today, the St. Petersburg Times discusses another form of senior financial exploitation on the other end of the spectrum-the outright theft of money from nursing home resident accounts.

Until her firing yesterday, Janice Lynn Smith was the receptionist at Heritage Park, a nursing home near Miami. As with many other employees at nursing homes, Smith was in a position to gain access to the accounts of the nursing home residents. Apparently, the ability to steal from these vulnerable residents at the facility was too much for her to resist.

The Chicago Tribune recently published a troubling story of financial abuse affecting an elderly man from nearby Des Plaines.

Will Harling is seventy one years old, a fact that he believes made him a more attractive target for his abuser, Taha Mahmood. Mr. Harling met Mahmood through a mortgage underwriter, and the two began discussing possible business opportunities. Mahmood seemed to say all the right things, even claiming to have gone to the same high school at Mr. Harling. Eventually, Mr. Harling agreed to assist Mahmood in starting a construction business. However, the funds that were provided to help jump-start the new project were never used to build the business. Instead, they went straight into Mohmood’s pocket.

The ruse was taken to new heights when Mahmood manufactured a fake loan approval document (totaling $2.6 million) in order to convince Harling that the project was progressing. Eventually the repossession of a Rolls-Royce that had been purchased under Mr. Harling’s name alerted him to the fraud.

Yet another example of elder financial abuse is being reported in Poughkeepsie Journal. Two female aides were working at the Lake View Arms apartment complex, assisting the elderly residents who lived in the units with basic health and household upkeep tasks.

However, authorities recently discovered that the aides were stealing from the elderly residents to whom they were providing care. The women stole cash, blank checks, and personal property from the vulnerable seniors who they were supposed to be serving. Luckily, police officers were made aware of the theft and arrested the women before they were able to commit any additional acts of robbery. As reported often on this blog, the vast majority of cases of elder financial abuse are never reported. Several billion dollars are taken from seniors each year.

Our Chicago nursing home abuse attorneys at Levin & Perconti encourage more vigilant oversight of the financial transactions of our all vulnerable seniors. Many seniors have no choice but to place enormous trust in the care workers who are supposed to assist in their daily needs. All too often, those workers are unable to resist the temptation to take advantage of their authority and steal the resources of the senior. Sadly, most seniors have no one to stand up to their abusers, and so the thieves get away.

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