Financial abuse and material exploitation of the elderly may not cause physical injuries or leave scars, but it can have devastating effects and ruin the lives of victims. Financial elder abuse can take many forms. The abuser may steal money or items from the elder’s bank account or home, sell or transfer property against the elder’s wishes, use the elder’s credit cards for unauthorized purchases, use the elder’s name to open new credit accounts, or create or change a living trust or will for the abuser’s benefit. Financial elder abuse also can take the form of telemarketing fraud, identity theft, predatory lending, and home improvement and estate planning scams.
Unexplained behavioral changes, such as sudden secrecy or reluctance to speak freely, may be warning signs of financial elder abuse. If an elder appears withdrawn, helpless, frightened, or angry, this may also indicate that abuse is taking place.
The following are warning signs of financial elder abuse:
1. Unusual bank account activity, such as ATM withdrawals at a bank the elder cannot travel to
2. Signatures on checks and documents that do not match the elder’s signature
3. Unexplained change in spending patterns or unusual/out of character purchases
4. Generous gifts to a person the elder have only met recently
5. Change in who has power of attorney for unknown reason
Factors which make elders susceptible to financial abuse include
Reporting financial elder abuse can save the assets, dignity, and health of an elder. it is better to err on the side of caution in order to protect a senior from victimization. If you are the victim of material exploitation, it is important to know that the law is on your side. If you suspect financial elder abuse it is better to err on the side of caution in order to protect a senior from victimization, contact Adult Protective Services (941) 751-8474
Joseph W. Lehn, LLM Elder Law, is a Port Charlotte attorney who helps seniors with issues of aging