Financial exploitation is one of the most common forms of elder abuse in the United States. Each year, America’s most vulnerable citizens are victimized and cheated by negligent caretakers, scam artists, and selfish family members. Because they are losing over $3 billion a year, many of these elderly citizens are facing destitution and even homelessness because they can’t make their monthly housing or utility payments.
A 2016 report by the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) estimated that elderly Virginians were losing up to $1 billion a year due to financial exploitation. Fortunately, more people are recognizing the signs of adult financial abuse and are taking legal action to protect themselves or their loved ones. In fact, according to a 2019 report released by DARS, “The number of financially exploited Virginians climbed 30 percent, on the heels of a 20 percent jump the previous year, demonstrating the challenges faced by those who seek to stop this wrongdoing.” Paige McCleary, director of the Adult Protective Services Division of DARS, explained that the news may not be all bad in that that this increase is partially due to spreading awareness among Virginians about financial abuse, and that they are not as afraid to speak out on behalf of family members, neighbors, or friends.
Lawmakers are also enacting policies to prevent cases of adult financial exploitation. In the past, financial institutions risked liability if they held up transactions where they suspect that a customer has been a victim of financial exploitation. This year, the Governor signed legislation sponsored by Senator Obenshain (Senate Bill 1490) that authorized financial institutions to put a hold on these suspicious transactions and to report them to the authorities.
How You Can Protect Your Loved One
The only way that you can protect your loved one is by understanding and recognizing the signs of financial exploitation. Whether your friend or relative lives at home or in a nursing home facility, you can be a supportive and protective presence in their life.
Common signs of financial abuse or exploitation include:
- Unexplained disappearance of property or money
- Missing checkbooks or credit cards
- Unpaid medical, housing, or pharmacy bills
- The transfer of property or savings
- Checks no longer come to the house
- The sudden appearance of needy friends or relatives
- Documents are signed with suspicious signatures
- Your loved one suddenly lacks basic needs
- Unexpected changes in a power of attorney or will
- Excessive dependence upon new friends or caregivers
- Cutting ties with loved ones
It’s important to trust your instincts when it comes to safeguarding your loved ones, their financial independence and standard of living. If you believe that a family member is a victim of financial abuse, contact the Adult Protective Services Hotline at (888) 832-3858 and the Virginia elder financial abuse attorneys at Obenshain Law Group.
Explore Your Legal Options Today
The trial-tested lawyers at Obenshain Law Group have been serving clients in the Shenandoah Valley and across Virginia for over 30 years. Our experienced and resourceful legal team can meticulously investigate your case, research the suspected exploiter, work with experts, and develop and implement a strategy to protect you’re your family and victims of financial exploitation.
Contact our Virginia elder financial abuse attorneys at (540) 318-7360 to schedule a free consultation.