Few things are more disturbing than hearing of injustice committed against our most vulnerable. Our elderly loved ones and our children are precious to us and when someone wrongs them, it’s easy to understand why we feel a strong sense of duty to ensure those wrongs are righted. When it comes to seniors, financial fraud is sometimes missed by their children or other loved ones until the damage has been done. Today’s 30-somethings are not only raising their children, but they’re also tending to their aging parents as well. In many ways, it’s as though they’re being pulled in opposite directions. It’s not at all unusual for three or more generations to be living under the same roof. It’s the one sure fire way families can protect one another. It’s those seniors who pride themselves on living independently who are most at risk.
As a result, we can sometimes miss the illegal efforts of others to take advantage of our older loved ones. Unfortunately, financial fraud is skyrocketing and much of the focus is only older Americans. The laws in most states have harsh punishments in place for those caught engaging in elder financial abuse.
As new federal guidelines being defined and instituted, some of which are part of President Obama’s 2009 CARD Act, new tools are also being introduced. Those states with laws already on the books are looking for ways to further strengthen them. In fact, this summer, three states have already enacted new laws. Missouri, Washington and Delaware now have laws that allow anyone to report suspected financial abuse. If those who suspect abuse are financial professionals, they may now suspend any number of transactions with full immunity from liability. This means if an elderly person enters his bank with someone who appears to be directing him, the bank teller is now empowered to take action.
One of the biggest challenges in these crimes is the fact that so many go unreported. In fact, it’s now believed there are at least 5 million cases of elder financial abuse in the United States each year; sadly, law enforcement learns of only 1 in 25 cases. These new laws aim to change that.
Many of American’s elderly citizens are making decisions every month whether to pay their mortgage or make their credit card payments. It doesn’t matter how old we are, making decisions when we’re stressed is never a good idea. Unfortunately, scam artists are hoping that’s exactly what happens: stressed out seniors making less than ideal decisions. There is always a fraudster at the ready.
When you understand what to look for, either as a senior or a loved one of that senior, you stand a better chance of identifying and then stopping it. By putting proper protections in place, such as financial powers of attorney, you have a better chance of catching these problems before they can become crises.
For more information on how to protect your elderly loved ones, contact our offices today.