Oklahoma Attorneys for Financial Abuse of Seniors

When nursing home abuse or other elder abuse makes the headlines, it often involves shocking accounts of neglect, physical violence or sexual abuse. However, financial abuse of older adults is also a huge problem that can destroy a person’s plans for peace in one’s older years.

A 2011 MetLife study identified elder financial abuse in the U.S. as a $2.9 billion/year problem. Here are some startling examples from various news reports:

  • In British Columbia, a woman seized control of her father’s home and bank accounts while he was in the hospital having brain surgery. She justified her actions by saying she had not expected her father to survive the surgery.
  • An in-home caregiver in Georgia embezzled $500,000 from an 80-year-old veteran.
  • A handyman convinced a woman that he needed power of attorney to complete a project. He then took out a reverse mortgage on her home.
  • A live-in caregiver took over the home and money of the woman she was hired to care for. She moved her family into the house and moved the senior woman into the (unheated) garage.

If you are a senior adult or are close to a senior, here are some things to know and to look for regarding elder financial abuse.

Which Seniors are Most Vulnerable?

Seniors with assets: Seniors with savings, home equity or assets are a target. People over 50 control more than 70% of the nation’s wealth. Unfortunately, some younger individuals seek to obtain these things earlier in life by taking advantage of older people who have worked hard and saved well.

  • Women comprise two-thirds of elder financial abuse victims.
  • Seniors in their 80s are particularly vulnerable. An octogenarian is more likely to be living alone, more likely to have physical and/or cognitive disabilities, etc.
  • Older adults who have become isolated from others: Fewer people means fewer to notice or ask questions that might uncover the abuse.
  • Older adults with cognitive impairments: Such a senior may have difficulty recognizing that he or she is being taken advantage of and/or may have difficulty communicating the problem to others.
  • Older adults who are dependent on one individual or couple: Senior adults may fear that if they speak up about financial abuse, they may be abandoned and have no one left to help them.

Who are the Possible Abusers

Many people are in a position to take financial advantage of an older adult, including:

  • In-home caregivers
  • Anyone who has obtained power of attorney
  • Financial advisors: Laws and industry standards require financial advisors to make sure their guidance is appropriate for a senior adult’s financial situation. Unfortunately, some advisors ignore those boundaries for personal advantage.
  • Relatives: Family members who have drinking or drug problems, gambling or financial problems are especially susceptible to temptation.
  • Close friends or neighbors: Some friends and neighbors are like family, which gives them the same opportunities. Once example is the “sweetheart scam,” when someone significantly younger professes to love the older adult.

The MetLife study attributed 51% of elder financial abuse crimes to strangers, 34% to family, friends and neighbors, and 12% to people in the business community.

What are the Warning Signs?

Social warning signs

  • Someone close to the senior begins showing great interest in an older adult’s finances or assets.
  • Someone close to the senior begins to speak for the senior adult and prevents the older person from speaking for oneself.

Banking warning signs

  • Unusual banking transactions.
  • Frequent large withdrawals from bank accounts or ATMs.
  • Closing CDs or accounts without regard to penalties.
  • Unusual attempts to wire large sums of money.
  • Change of address for financial statements.
  • The financial institution is unable to speak directly with the account holder, despite repeated attempts.
  • A relative or friend begins conducting financial transactions on behalf of the older adult, even when they lack proper documentation to do so.
  • Someone is seeking or is granted power of attorney for a senior adult.

Prevention

What can an older adult do to prevent financial abuse?

  • Stay active. The more people you interact with and the more people you have on your side, the more likely that someone will help you notice when you are being taken advantage of.
  • Tell others about new people and new things in your life. They may point out a blind spot or question you are missing.
  • Keep checkbooks, credit cards and valuables out-of-reach when people are coming and going from your home.
  • Don’t ever sign over your power of attorney unless you are absolutely sure it is the right thing to do. And don’t ever sign anything until you or someone you trust has read it.
  • If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. A valuable prize awaits you if you provide some personal information? That’s probably a scam. Someone much younger than you is professing his or her love. He or she may be in love with your money.

What can a family member or friend do to prevent a loved one from being abused financially?

  • Have periodic interaction with the senior. Visit and make telephone calls. First-hand interaction is the best way to notice problems.
  • Various family members should take turns checking in. It is not uncommon for multiple siblings to leave all the caregiving to one individual. That creates temptation. The caring sibling has the opportunity to take financial advantage because no one else is checking in. And he or she may feel entitled to do so, since other siblings are not doing their part.
  • Ask questions about the new people and things in a senior’s life. A new caregiver, a new business professional or a new friend may be a blessing or a threat. Keeping alert and asking questions will help determine which. If the senior doesn’t want to talk about it, that is all the more reason to be suspicious.

If an Elderly Family Member was the Victim of Financial Abuse, Our Attorneys can Help

For more information about Elder Abuse, see our webpage: “Nursing Home Abuse.”

If you or a loved one are a victim of financial abuse or any form of elder abuse, contact us for a free consultation about your legal rights. Call us at 405-235-1551 or toll-free at 866- 416-4737. Send me an email at cth@hasbrooklaw.com. Or use our online Contact Form.