Preventing Elder Financial Abuse
The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) has stated that around 1 in 10 elders experience some form of abuse, with only about 1 in 24 cases ever being reported. Ranging from physical and emotional abuse to neglect and confinement, elder abuse takes many shapes. Perhaps the most common type of elder abuse comes in the form ofelder financial abuse, also called elder financial exploitation or elder fraud.
What is Elder Fraud?
Elder fraud is a type of abuse that preys on the older and more vulnerable population with the purpose of stealing, misusing or misappropriating funds. According to a report by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, of the 791,790 complaints of fraud filed with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), 28% of the victims were over the age of 60. Virginia elders alone lost $24.8 million in 2020.
How Does it Happen?
Elder financial abuse can happen in different ways. In some cases, a family member, someone with an established relationship and supposed sense of trust, can attempt to take advantage of elderly family members for financial gain. If your loved one is in need of assistance or resides in a nursing home, their caretakers can also perpetrate elder fraud. Even strangers, with no relation whatsoever to you or your loved one, can try to scam and construct ploys to deceive your elderly family members into giving away their money.
Examples of Types of Scams
Fraudsters and scammers have been around for centuries, and, during that time, their methods have evolved. Here are some of the most common types of modern scams your loved ones may be falling victim to:
- Romance Scams - Someone posing as a potential love interest will attempt to gain trust and build rapport in order to extract money from an elderly person.
- Tech Support - A scammer, impersonating a benevolent computer technician, contacts your loved one and informs them of a virus within their computer, and the only way to remove it is through expensive transactions.
- Government Scam - Your loved one may receive a call from someone pretending to be from a government agency such as the local police department, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), who then attempts to threaten them with arrest if they do not pay a certain amount.
Recognizing the Signs of Financial Abuse
Being cognizant of the signs and patterns of elder fraud is essential to prevention while the scheme may still be in its early stages. Your loved one may be the victim of financial exploitation if you recognize the following:
- An apparent “long-lost” relative reaches out to your loved one.
- Your loved one tells you that they have won a contest they never entered.
- They inform you that they just met someone online who requires financial help.
- Credit or debit card charges appear on statements that they cannot remember making.
- Bills go unpaid when you know they should have enough money to pay them.
- This is especially troubling if your loved one has someone managing their funds.
- Random changes are made to their will, possibly signing a new power of attorney to someone you are unfamiliar with.
Staying connected to your loved ones is an essential part of making sure they remain protected from fraudulent schemes. Whether you communicate via social media, video chat or with the help of their assisted living or nursing home facility, being able to speak with your loved ones and stay informed about their daily life is very important.
For all of its downfalls and criticisms, social media has played an important role in keeping families and friends connected. If this is your primary method of contact, then be sure to check their privacy settings and ensure their information stays private to third-party sources.
Advancements in technology have made secure banking that much more protected. Direct deposit eliminates the need for receiving physical checks, an item that could easily be stolen. Mobile banking applications can send alerts or reminders in the event of worrisome transactions or upcoming bills.
In many instances an elderly person may require a caregiver, someone who takes responsibility for their health and overall well-being. In order to ensure that your loved one is being properly taken care of by an individual you can trust, you may have to take preemptive measures to know you are hiring the right person.
There are a number of online resources where you can get more information about financial elder abuse prevention. These sources include the Virginia Adult Protective Services (APS), Consumer Finance’s Guide on Elder Fraud and The US Department of Justice (DOJ). Support groups, elder abuse advocates and even banking institutions have resources regarding financial protection. The Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) has helpful information regarding elder abuse and fraud, with numbers to call should you suspect exploitation is taking place and wish to file a report.
Prevention Through Legislation
Elder financial exploitation is such a widespread issue that lawmakers have taken to drafting legislation to protect elderly people. The Financial Exploitation Prevention Act is a good example of how state officials are appearing before the House of Representatives in an attempt to put an end to fraudulent attacks against elders.
How to Report Elder Financial Abuse
While elder abuse as a whole remains an underreported crime, filing a complaint is very simple. To report a case of elder abuse, you can call the Virginia Adult Protective Services (APS) at 1-888-832-3858. APS will send an investigator to review the claim with you and your loved one. In cases where the perpetrator is caught, they may be detained, fined and even criminally charged.
Seeking Compensation After Elder Fraud?
The elder fraud attorneys at Obenshain Law Group have been fighting for your justice and compensation for those injured by the wrongdoing of others for more than 30 years. Using a team approach, we will launch a comprehensive investigation to hold scammers accountable for their fraudulent acts. If you suspect that elder financial exploitation is taking place, contact us today.
Call our office today at (540) 318-7360 or visit our website to fill outa free consultation form.