Scams that are perpetrated on our vulnerable seniors have been the subject of past reports here at Senior Care Corner.
People who call and pretend to be representing a corporation or charity, phishing in emails, and door to door “sales” people who ask for money are the usual types of scams.
Did you know that there are many other ways that older adults are victims of financial abuse?
Unfortunately, it isn’t just strangers who are out to separate seniors from their savings.
Elder Abuse Defined
There are several types of abuse that can occur to our seniors, whether they live at home alone, home with family, home with paid caregivers or in a residential facility. It has been reported that 1 in 20 adults feel that they have been victims of financial abuse in the past — and may be higher due to underreporting. It is a growing problem that all too often goes undetected.
According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) there are many forms of abuse and this is how they define the types.
- Physical abuse – the use of physical force causing pain or impairment.
- Sexual abuse – non-consensual sexual contact of any kind; if the senior is unable to give consent it is considered abuse.
- Emotional or psychological abuse – infliction of anguish or distress through verbal or nonverbal acts.
- Neglect – refusal or failure to provide personal obligation to a senior, including life’s necessities.
- Abandonment – desertion of an elder by someone who has assumed responsibility or physical custody of them.
- Self-neglect – behavior of an elder that threatens their own health or safety.
- Financial or material exploitation – illegal or improper use of a senior’s funds, property or assets.
Today we’re focusing on the last item, financial abuse.
Financial Abuse Examples
Our senior loved ones can be threatened by someone misusing or misdirecting their assets. This person could be a family friend, neighbor, family member, paid home caregiver or staff member in their residential facility.
It is be a good idea to be familiar with the many ways that someone near your senior could be abusing them. This often involves checking out their accounts and assets, including their possessions, so you can be aware of the areas of vulnerability and changes that occur.
- Cashing your senior’s checks without permission
- Forging your senior’s signature on any type of paperwork, check or power of attorney
- Stealing your senior’s money, household possessions or valuables; this could be something as simple as taking their newspaper without permission or stealing the china or jewelry from their home
- Taking money from the ATM, falsifying checks, using credit cards for personal use, or withdrawing money from accounts
- Tricking or coercing your senior to sign over a deed, change their will, or authorize a power of attorney or other legal documents involving assets.
- Taking your senior’s social security number and using it to steal their identity
- Getting romantically involved, even marrying your senior, and then exploiting their finances
Financial Abuse Prevention Strategies
Families can become aware of the warning signs of this type of abuse and, if not prevent it, stop someone from taking your senior’s financial future.
- Look at bank records for unusual activity and charges from unknown credit cards. Contact the bank manager and let them know that you are suspicious and enlist help from the bank to secure your senior’s accounts.
- Check your senior’s credit history for activity in which your senior did not participate — or been a willing participant.
- Be wary of any new ‘best friends’ or frequent visitors who become overly involved in the personal business of your senior.
- If your senior seems to be isolating him or herself from their usual routine, especially when that isolation is driven by a paid caregiver. This could be a red flag. Someone may be trying to keep improper activities secret.
- Be observant of your senior’s belongings. Are there things in the home that appear to be missing?
- You may want to lock up valuables that are not in use, such as family jewels, legal documents such as titles or property deeds and any large amounts of cash.
- Have your senior’s pension and benefits checks direct deposited so that there are no paper checks to get in the wrong hands. Also have all their bank statements or bills sent electronically so that vital information cannot be stolen from their possession or even the mailbox.
- You may also want to lock up in a safety deposit box their social security and Medicare cards, which show their social security number and therefore can be used to steal their identity.
Keeping your senior’s finances safe will help them achieve their aging goals of staying in their home as long as possible or being able to afford a residential care facility of their choice when the time comes.
Have you experienced any financial abuse or suspect it in your senior’s home situation? If you feel comfortable sharing, we would love to hear from you what happened and what actions you took!