As the population of older Americans continues to increase dramatically. Unfortunately, that also means that elder abuse is also a growing problem. One type of elder abuse that is often underreported is elder financial exploitation. Predators take advantage of the fact that it is an uncomfortable topic of conversation. To help prevent you or a loved one from becoming a victim, the Indianapolis elder law attorneys at Frank & Kraft discuss what you need to know about financial exploitation.
What Is Elder Financial Exploitation?
Elder financial abuse, or exploitation, can be defined very broadly as the illegal or improper use of an older person’s money or property. This type of elder abuse takes numerous forms and can occur under a wide variety of scenarios, such as:
- Family members taking advantage of an elder person’s diminished capacity to either cajole or outright steal money or assets.
- A caregiver using an elder person’s money without permission or taking property from the individual’s home.
- A family member or caregiver getting an elderly individual to sign documents under false pretenses that transfer assets to the perpetrator, either now or after the elderly person’s death.
- Targeting an elderly individual for financial scams, over the telephone, through the mail, on the computer, or even in person.
Sadly, elder abuse, in all its forms, is not a new phenomenon in the United States. It is difficult to ascertain exactly how widespread or common elder abuse is, however, because victims frequently do not report the abuse because they are embarrassed and/or fear reprisals from the perpetrator. Nevertheless, experts estimate that one in 10 seniors will be the victim of some form of elder abuse amounting to over five million instances of financial exploitation of a senior each year. In addition, at least one in 20 older adults admit to some form of perceived financial mistreatment occurring in the recent past; however, only one in 44 cases of elder financial abuse is ever reported.
What Can I Do to Prevent Elder Financial Exploitation?
Whether you are a senior yourself or are worried about a loved one who is, the key to preventing elder financial exploitation is to acknowledge the threat and remain vigilant in your efforts to avoid becoming a victim. Educate yourself and/or your loved ones. One of the primary reasons why elder abuse, in general, is so grossly underreported is that victims are so often ashamed to have been victimized. Consequently, no one talks about the problem. Learn as much as you can about current scams and specific threats and discuss those threats with your friends and neighbors and/or with your elderly loved ones. Specific steps you can take to prevent becoming the victim of elder financial abuse include:
- Keep social media private. Set all social media settings to private and check those settings regularly. Never post personal, identifying information on social media regardless of your settings. Don’t advertise when you plan to go on vacation over social media.
- Monitor telephone calls. Never give out personal information to someone over the telephone. If the caller is legitimate, they won’t have a problem letting you hang up and call back using a number with which you are familiar.
- Do not fall for IRS/Social Security scams. If you really owe the IRS money, or the Social Security Administration needs to talk to you, you will receive something in writing – and they will NEVER ask you to wire money or transfer money electronically.
- Do your research. Thoroughly research any charities that ask you to make donations as well as companies you do business with over the internet.
- Family does not get a pass. Don’t assume that you can trust someone just because they are family. Two-thirds of the perpetrators of elder financial abuse are family members.
- Utilize your estate plan. Use your estate plan to make it clear now who you want to handle your finances if you reach a point where you can no longer handle them yourself. A power of attorney or voluntary guardianship can make this choice legally binding.
Contact Indianapolis Elder Law Attorneys
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns about elder financial exploitation, contact an experienced Indianapolis elder law attorney at Frank & Kraft by calling (317) 684-1100 to schedule an appointment.