Elder Financial Abuse

elder-abuse-financial-abuse-nursing-home-residentThe elderly are often targeted for financial abuse, leaving the victim financially and emotionally devastated. Many times financial abuse occurs with the consent of the older person.

Elder financial abuse can take many forms, from theft and fraud to misuse of the power of attorney or undue influence. This abuse is frequently traced back to family members, trusted friends, and caregivers in nursing homes.

The nursing home abuse lawyers at Nursing Home Law Center LLC are committed to helping victims of elder financial abuse and their families get the compensation they deserve.

Contact our law firm at (800) 726-9565 for a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your legal options if you or your loved one have been victims of financial abuse.

The National Statistics of Financial Elder Abuse

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, elderly financial abuse is a growing problem in the United States. Every year, millions of seniors are preyed upon by family members, friends, and even strangers, all looking to take advantage of the older adult's finances.

The statistics of elder financial abuse are alarming:

  • Every day, 10,000 Americans turn 65 years old. Unfortunately, financial abuse against seniors is expected to increase as the Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) continue to reach retirement age.
  • One in five elderly Americans has been a victim and cannot make financial decisions. In addition, approximately 5 million seniors have lost money to scammers, con artists, and thieves.
  • The average victim of financial abuse loses $120,000. This amount of money can have a devastating impact on a senior's quality of life.
  • By 2030, one in five Americans will be over 65.
  • Approximately 1 in 6 seniors does not understand their financial situation.
  • The annual economic loss to elder financial abuse is estimated at $2.9 billion.
  • Only 1 in 44 cases of elder financial abuse are ever reported to authorities.

The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) reported that family members commit 53% of financial abuse victims, followed by friends and neighbors (18%), caregivers in nursing homes (17%), and strangers (5%).

According to the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA), these statistics are only the "tip of the iceberg," and elder financial abuse is grossly underreported. They estimate that for every case of nursing home elder financial abuse that is reported, five cases go unreported.

What is Elder Financial Abuse?

The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) defines financial abuse as "the unauthorized use or misuse of an elder's funds, property, or resources." It can include stealing money or possessions, cashing checks without permission, forging signatures, and taking advantage of a senior's lack of understanding of finances.

Financial abuse can have a devastating effect on elderly victims. It can result in losing independence and dignity and even lead to emotional and physical abuse. Financial abuse can also significantly impact the victim's family, often causing stress and conflict.

How Elder Financial Abuse Happens

There are several ways that financial abuse of elders can occur. Sometimes a family member or friend may misuse an elder's funds or possessions without their knowledge.

Elder financial abuse can take many forms, including:

  • Theft of money or possessions in a nursing home
  • Illegal or unauthorized use of an elder's funds or property
  • Misuse of Power of Attorney
  • Forging the signature of an elder on financial documents

Financial exploitation can be more difficult to detect than other elder abuse since it does not leave physical signs.

What to Do If You Suspect Financial Abuse

If you suspect that an older person is being financially abused, there are a few things you can do:

  • Talk to the elder about your concerns, let them know that you're worried, and ask if anything is happening.
  • Ask family members or friends if they have any information about the situation. Encourage them to be honest and report any abuse they may have witnessed.
  • Contact your state's Adult Protective Services agency. They can investigate the situation and take steps to protect the older person from further abuse.
  • Contact a lawyer. If the abuse occurs within a family, you may want to talk to a lawyer about filing a guardianship or conservatorship case. It would give you legal authority to manage the elder's finances and protect their assets.

If you suspect that an older adult is being financially abused, these are some steps to take to protect them from further harm.

Older Adults That Are at Greater Risk of Financial Abuse

Some groups of vulnerable adults at greater risk of financial abuse are:

Elders Who Are Isolated or Socially Disconnected

Older people that are isolated and live alone are at greater risk of financial exploitation because they may not have anyone to check in on them or help manage their finances, making them vulnerable to phone scams and theft.

Elders With Cognitive Impairment

Seniors with cognitive impairment, such as dementia or Alzheimer's disease, are more likely to be targeted by scammers and financial predators. They may be less able to understand their financial situation because dementia limits a person’s ability to make decisions.

Elders With Limited Financial Resources

Older adults with limited financial resources are more desperate to sell their belongings or cash in their life insurance policy, making them more susceptible to scam artists and financial predators.

Elders Who Have a Disability

Many disabled seniors cannot work and rely on government benefits for their income. It can make them a target for scam artists who try to convince them to give away their money or assets.

If you are worried about the financial abuse of an older person in your life, there are steps you can take to protect them from further harm. First, you can talk to the elder about your concerns and contact a lawyer to discuss filing a guardianship or conservatorship case.

If you are an older adult and at risk of financial exploitation, it is important to protect yourself. Ensure you have someone you can trust to help manage your finances and be aware of common scams and schemes targeting seniors.

Indicators of Elder Financial Abuse

Some common indicators indicate that an older person may be being financially abused. These include:

  • The elder has sudden changes in their spending patterns or financial status
  • The older person is reluctant to talk about their finances or seems scared of someone in their family regarding money
  • Money or valuable belongings are missing from the elder's home
  • The elder has unexpected unpaid bills or debts that they can't explain
  • The older person is being forced to sign legal documents they don't understand
  • Sudden changes in bank accounts or unusual use of credit cards.
  • Large sums of money are withdrawn or transferred from one bank account to another.
  • Unpaid bills, eviction or foreclosure notifications

If you see any of these warning signs, it may indicate elder financial exploitation. Therefore, it is essential to talk to the elder about your concerns.

Types of Elder Financial Abuse

Some of the types of financial abuse the elderly may suffer include:

Scams and Frauds

Scams and frauds are among the most common types of elder financial exploitation. Scammers may try to convince seniors to give away their money or assets or invest in a fraudulent scheme. Some fraudulent activities targeted against seniors include:

  • Home improvement or repair scams: A scammer may offer to fix a senior's home but does unnecessary or shoddy repairs at a high cost.
  • Lottery scams: Seniors may be contacted by someone claiming they have won a large lottery prize, but they need to first send money for taxes or fees to collect the award.
  • Charity scams: Scammers may pose as representatives from a legitimate charity and ask for donations. However, the money will not go to charity and may be used for the scammer’s benefit.
  • Investment scams: Many seniors invest their money in stocks, mutual funds, or other ways to generate income. Scammers may try to convince them to invest in a fraudulent scheme that will likely lose all their money.
  • Telemarketing fraud: Many seniors are on the Do Not Call Registry, but telemarketers may still try to call them and sell them fraudulent products or services.
  • Pension liberation schemes: Some encourage seniors to cash in their pension early and invest the money in a high-risk investment. It can lead to losing all or most of their hard-earned money.

Financial Predators

Financial predators are people who take advantage of seniors for their gain. They may try to convince elders to sell their belongings or cash in their life insurance policy or borrow money at high-interest rates.

Hybrid Financial Exploitation

Hybrid financial exploitation is a type of abuse that combines aspects of both scams and predators. For example, a person may use scam tactics to gain access to an elder's money, then use predatory tactics to keep them from accessing it or getting it back.

Pressure Tactics by Family Members or Caregivers

Family members, especially adult children, may use pressure tactics to gain control of an elder's finances. They may try to convince the elder that they need to give them money or assets or withhold basic needs like food or medicine until they agree to cooperate. Common tactics include:

  • Demanding access to the elder's bank accounts
  • Refusing to let the elder see or handle their own money
  • Withholding basic needs like food or medicine until the elder agrees to cooperate
  • Refusing to let the elder leave home or take trips on their own
  • Making threats or using intimidation tactics
  • Offering to take care of the elder in exchange for money or assets

Financial Planners

Some elders may also be abused by the people they turn to for help managing their finances. For example, financial planners may take advantage of their trusting relationship with the elder to steal money or assets. They may charge high fees for services that are not needed, or they may convince the elder to invest in a fraudulent scheme.

Preventing Elder Financial Abuse

There are a few things that you can do to help prevent elder financial abuse.

  • Ensure the elder has someone they can trust to talk to about their finances.
  • Encourage the elder to be independent and manage their finances as much as possible to prevent other family members from taking advantage of their situation.
  • Ensure the elder has updated estate planning documents, including a Durable Power of Attorney and healthcare directive.
  • Teach the elder how to recognize scams and fraudulent schemes
  • Make sure the elder has access to all of their bank accounts and documents
  • Regularly monitor the elder's bank statements and other financial records
  • Report any concerns about elder financial abuse to Adult Protective Services

Financial abuse of elders is a serious problem, and it's important to be aware of the signs and take steps to prevent it. If you suspect that someone you know is being abused financially, don't hesitate to reach out for help.

Health Effects of Financial Elder Abuse

Financial elder abuse can have several serious health effects on the victim, including:

  • Anxiety: Causes stress and fear in the older person and can lead to emotional and physical illness.
  • Depression: The victim may become depressed as a result of the abuse.
  • Isolation: Financial abuse can lead to the victim becoming isolated from friends and family.
  • Mental decline: The stress and anxiety caused by financial abuse can cause the victim’s cognitive functioning to decline.
  • Physical decline: Financial abuse can also lead to a physical decline in the victim. They may have financial problems and may not have enough money to afford necessities like food and medication.
  • Lack of access to essential services or medical care: Financial abuse can also lead to a lack of access to essential services or medical care.

The victims of financial elder abuse are often unable to seek help because they are afraid, ashamed, or embarrassed.

How to Report Financial Exploitation of the Elderly

Reporting elderly financial abuse can be done through a variety of avenues.

Adult Protective Services: APS is a government agency investigating elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation reports. A member of your state's APS agency can help you report the abuse and provide resources and support.

The National Elder Abuse Hotline: operated by the Administration on Aging, this hotline is a national resource for information and assistance on elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation. The hotline can connect you with local services and provide advice on how to protect yourself or a loved one.

Local Police or Sheriff's Department: if you believe that a crime has been committed, you can report the abuse to the local police and other law enforcement agency. They will investigate and may pursue criminal charges.

Financial Institutions: many financial institutions have procedures for reporting suspected elder abuse. Contact your bank, credit union, or other financial institutions to find out how to report abuse.

Elder Financial Abuse Attorney: if you have questions about your legal rights or want help filing a report, an elder law attorney can provide guidance and support.

Ombudsmen:Ombudsmen are independent, impartial advocates who work to resolve complaints and disputes. They can help you mediate a solution or file a report with the appropriate agency. If the victim is in a nursing home, contact the state Ombudsman.

There are many resources available to help you report the financial exploitation of the elderly.

Why Elder Financial Abuse Goes Unreported

There are several reasons why nursing home elder financial abuse goes unreported, including:

  • The victim may be afraid or ashamed to speak out. They are often embarrassed and do not want anyone to know what is happening.
  • The victim may not realize that they are being financially exploited. They may think that they are just being scammed or that it is their responsibility to care for the abuser.
  • The abuser may be a family member, adult children, or friends, and the victim doesn't want to cause a rift in the family.
  • The abuser may threaten or harass the victim if they try to speak out; it often occurs in a nursing home.
  • The victim may not know who to turn to or where to find help.

Whatever the reason, it's important to remember that you are not alone. There are many resources available to help you report the financial exploitation of the elderly.

Laws Protecting Against Elder Financial Abuse

Elder financial exploitation statutes in all 50 states offer some form of legal protection for vulnerable older adults. In addition, many states have also enacted legislation specific to the financial abuse of elders, which creates a more comprehensive legal framework to address the issue.

In addition to state laws, several federal laws protect older adults from financial abuse, including:

  • The Elder Justice Act of 2009 established the Elder Justice Coordinating Council to promote coordination and collaboration among federal agencies working on elder justice issues
  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s rule prohibiting unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices in connection with any consumer financial product or service
  • The Social Security Administration’s program to protect seniors from financial abuse

The protections offered by these laws are essential, but they only provide a partial solution to the problem of elder financial abuse.

Take Action Against Elder Financial Exploitation

When you suspect that an elder is a victim of financial exploitation, it's important to take action. The earlier a potential abuse case is reported, the faster it can be resolved. A competent lawyer can assess your case and fight for compensation.

The elder financial abuse lawyers at the Nursing Home Law Center LLC have years of experience representing the victims of elder financial abuse. We know how to build a strong case on your behalf and get the compensation you deserve.

Don't wait to take action; contact us today at (888) 926-7565 for a free consultation.


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