When people hear the words "elder abuse," they usually think
of the horrific cases of physical
nursing home abuse and neglect reported in the news across the country. What is less talked about is
the financial abuse heaped upon unsuspecting seniors every year.
According to a new
study, the damage is much more costly than once suspected. Previous estimates
suggested that older Americans lose $2.9 billion every year due to financial
abuse. But the analysis by the financial services company, True Link,
found that elder fraud is 12 times higher than the original figures, coming
in at a staggering $36.5 billion.
This news is alarming for all families with loved ones in their golden
years. After all, even able-bodied seniors with no apparent cognitive
declines can be duped by scammers, relatives or people entrusted to provide
Financial Exploitation Carries Serious Consequences
The consequences of financial exploitation are not only monetary. Elders
may suffer psychologically when they become aware of the abuse and become
Due to shame and embarrassment, they may not report the financial abuse.
As a result, the problem may not come to light until after all of their
financial resources have been drained.
Sadly, the effects are also physical. As many as 954,000 older Americans
are skipping meals as a result of financial abuse, the findings of the
True Link study showed.
Who Commits Financial Abuse?
Financial abuse is perpetrated by a variety of different parties, not just
family members. Con artists cheat seniors out of nearly $10 million each
year, using tactics such as the fake lottery or infamous Nigerian prince
scams. Elders are commonly victims of identity theft after giving out
personal information to so-called bank representatives or other seemingly
Trusted caregivers are estimated to steal $6.67 billion from their elder
charges every year.
How Children Can Prevent Elder Financial Abuse
In today's culture, it is common for sons and daughters to live far
away from their aging parents, especially as more retirees settle in warmer
places like Florida. From a distance, it is not easy to monitor who is
writing the checks.
Even children who do make an effort to keep track of their parent's
finances may not have an easy time doing so if the money is controlled
by a financial advisor or other professionals in positions of trust, who
may be skilled at covering their tracks.
Despite these challenges, it is important to have ongoing discussions with
parents about their financial situations over time. You can frame the
discussion in the context of helping them to plan for the future by communicating
their wishes regarding money, durable power of attorney, advance medical
directives and their wills.
In your talks, teach your loved ones not to give out personal information
such as Social Security numbers, Medicare or private health insurance
details and credit card numbers to people over the phone or that they
have never heard of before. Follow the news as new scams surface and be
sure to share that information.
Additionally, be cautious about who you hire to be a caregiver for your
parent. In residential situations, wallets and checkbooks are easily accessible.
It is easy for caregivers to steal directly or manipulate seniors from
signing off on purchases that are not for them without realizing it.
Hire someone you feel you can trust, and don't hesitate to fire them
if you suspect wrongdoing.
You should also consider hiring a caregiver who works through a bonded
agency so that you can recoup your losses if he or she steals from your
You could also consider adding language to your hiring contract that the
caregiver is not allowed to accept gifts from the senior or be left anything
in his or her will.
If you believe that you or your elderly loved one has been victimized by
financial abuse, The Maher Law Firm can assist you.
Contact us today to learn more. We provide consultations that are free and confidential.