- Look out for unexplained withdrawals from bank accounts and sudden changes in wills or estate plans.
- Seek legal counsel to help navigate the legalities involved in reporting financial exploitation.
- Report financial exploitation by calling local adult protective services or the National Elder Abuse Hotline.
- Develop an action plan to protect the senior from further abuse.
- Encourage seniors to avoid sharing private information and be aware of scams targeting seniors.
As people age, they become increasingly vulnerable to various forms of abuse, including financial exploitation. Unfortunately, some individuals see seniors as easy targets and prey on them for financial gain. Financial exploitation includes scams, identity theft, and undue influence.
Since seniors are likely to have accumulated assets and savings, they face significant financial risks when they fall victim to exploitation. Therefore, knowing how to protect seniors from financial exploitation and where to get help if you suspect someone you know is being exploited is essential.
Understand Financial Exploitation
As a loved ones age, it’s only natural that you become more concerned about their financial well-being. And while you may assume that your senior family members are savvy enough to avoid financial exploitation, the reality is that they may be at higher risk than any other age group. Here are some of the common signs you need to look out for:
Unexplainable Withdrawals from Bank Accounts
The first signal of financial exploitation of seniors is unexplained withdrawals from bank accounts. Financial exploitation can come in many forms, and the most obvious sign is an unexplained response to a significant amount of cash. You must investigate if you notice a sudden drop in your loved one’s bank accounts without any rationale.
Sudden Changes in Wills or Estate Plans
The second red flag to be aware of is a sudden change in an elderly person’s will or estate plan. As they are legally binding documents, any changes should be scrutinized. Changing an estate plan can be a legitimate move. Still, the problem might arise if a new friend or acquaintance already has the older adult’s power of attorney, coercing them into making changes or granting them access to various financial assets.
Unexplained Loans or Debts
The third warning sign of financial abuse is unexplained loans or debts from family and friends. The elderly individual may appear suddenly indebted to a family member, creditor, or individual due to coercion. If your elderly loved one is acquiring new loans or occurring unexplained debts, this should be investigated further.
Senior Coerced into Making Donations
The fourth warning sign is a senior coerced into donating or paying for costly expenses. For instance, they receive a call from a charity organization and then promise to donate money, even though they have financial constraints.
Seek Legal Counsel
If you suspect financial exploitation of a senior, seek legal counsel immediately. An experienced elder law attorney can help you navigate the legalities in reporting and investigating financial exploitation. Moreover, an attorney can assist in identifying and closing loopholes that the exploiter may use to access the senior’s assets.
It would also be helpful to discuss the option of seeking elderly guardianship for the victim. This can help you better protect them from potential exploitation and establish a plan of action in case it does occur. With this, you will have more control and can better monitor all financial activities of the senior and ensure that their money is used solely for their benefit.
Report Financial Exploitation
Reporting financial exploitation is essential in protecting seniors from further abuse. Call your local adult protective services or the National Elder Abuse Hotline at 1-800-677-1116 to report the matter. The hotline is available 24/7, and callers can remain anonymous.
It is essential to note that your identity will remain anonymous throughout the investigation, and your suspicion is enough to report the matter. By reporting financial exploitation, you protect seniors from future abuse and may recover some stolen funds.
Develop an Action Plan
Once you report a suspicion of financial exploitation, create an action plan to support the senior. Consider temporarily blocking access to their accounts and seeking new legal representation if the current attorney was involved in the exploitation. You may also need to adjust legal documents, including living trusts or wills, to protect the senior from future financial abuse.
Prevent Future Exploitation
Prevention is critical in supporting seniors and preventing financial exploitation. Encourage seniors only to provide personal information when necessary and avoid sharing private information, including social security numbers, with anyone who requests it.
Always verify a request or caller’s identity before sharing information or funds. Finally, be aware of scams targeting seniors, such as telemarketing, credit card, and sweepstakes scams, that can cause significant financial harm.
Financial exploitation is a serious crime that can significantly impact seniors’ financial security and well-being. However, by proactively educating yourself and your loved ones, you can help prevent and report financial exploitation. Remember, the prevention of financial exploitation is always better than the cure!