Whether you are a senior yourself or the loved one of a senior, it is imperative that you understand how common elder financial exploitation is in the United States. In fact, the odds are that someone you know has been the victim of senior financial exploitation. Understanding the problem is the first step toward protecting yourself and those you love from becoming a victim. A Beverly area elder law attorney at DeBruyckere Law Offices offers tips to help avoid becoming the victim of elder financial exploitation.
Defining Elder Financial Exploitation
The older population in the U.S. has grown at a historic rate over the last several decades – and experts tell us it will continue to grow in the coming decades as well. Sadly, the increase in the senior population has resulted in a corresponding increase in incidences of all types of elder abuse. Although people tend to think of physical abuse and neglect when they hear the term “elder abuse,” the most common type of elder abuse is actually financial exploitation. Financial exploitation of the elderly can take many forms, such as:
- Targeting an elderly individual for financial scams, over the telephone, through the mail, on the computer, or even in person
- 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.
- Family members taking advantage of an elder person’s diminished capacity to either cajole, or outright steal, money or assets.
The sad truth is that the elderly make excellent targets for several reasons. In the U.S., people over 50 control over 70 percent of the nation’s wealth – and they are much more trusting with their wealth than their younger counterparts. In addition, older individuals tend to be less technologically savvy while at the same time being more predictable, making them easier to scam. Finally, a significant percentage of seniors suffer from Alzheimer’s or another form of age-related dementia which makes them an ideal victim.
Tips to Help Prevent Becoming a Victim
The good news is that there are things you can do to decrease the likelihood of becoming a victim of elder financial exploitation, such as:
- Be open about the problem. One of the biggest obstacles for law enforcement authorities and elder advocates when it comes to trying to prevent and/or punish those who prey on the elderly is the fact that victims don’t come forward and discuss the problem. Whether out of embarrassment or fear, authorities estimate that for every one instance of financial exploitation that is reported, as many as 15 more go unreported. Don’t avoid the conversation. Instead, talk about it openly and often with your family and any other elderly loved ones.
- Be careful what you post on social media. Set all social media settings to private and check those settings regularly. Never post personal identifying information on social media regardless of your settings and never advertise when you plan to go on vacation over social media.
- Verify the identity of callers. 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 one popular phone scam – the threatening I.R.S. phone call. If you really owe the IRS money, you will receive something in writing – and they will NEVER ask you to wire money or transfer money electronically.
- Thoroughly vet anyone entering the home. If you (or a loved one) need a home health aid or someone to help around the house, do a thorough background check on the individual yourself. Do not rely on an employment agency or anyone else to conduct the investigation.
- Plan ahead for your own incapacity. Make it clear now who you want handling 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.
- Don’t assume that family members can be trusted. The uncomfortable truth is that 90 percent of the perpetrators of financial exploitation are family members. When a family member is the perpetrator, two-thirds of the time it is an adult child or spouse of an adult child.
Contact a Beverly Area Elder Law Attorney
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you are concerned that you, or someone you know, might be the victim of elder financial exploitation, contact a Beverly area elder law attorney at DeBruyckere Law Offices by calling (603) 894-4141 or (978) 969-0331 to schedule an appointment.