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Recognizing the Signs of Financial Exploitation in Seniors

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Elder abuse is a grim issue plaguing our nation’s aging population. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) reported that up to five million older Americans are abused every year. On June 15, 2006, the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA) and the World Health Organization at the United Nations initiated the first World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD). The observation of this internationally-recognized day is meant to foster equality, provide education, increase awareness, and encourage reporting of instances of abuse, neglect, or exploitation of elderly individuals.

Under the wider definition of elder abuse, one specific and severe example is financial exploitation. Financial exploitation, or financial abuse, can rob seniors of their financial independence and deprive them of a lifetime of hard-earned savings. Statistics published by the NCOA indicate that the annual loss by elderly victims of financial abuse is over $36.5 billion.

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), financial exploitation is the illegal or improper use of a victim’s funds, property, or assets by another party. When financial exploitation occurs, an older adult’s money or belongings may be stolen or misused, or they may be tricked or forced into making financial decisions they do not want or do not understand.

If you suspect that you or a loved one may be the victim of financial exploitation, do not wait to reach out for legal guidance. In situations of elder mistreatment, the law is a valuable tool in helping a victim recover damages. A qualified nursing home abuse lawyer with expertise in protecting the rights of older adults will work with you and your loved one to obtain justice and help you move forward.

Signs of Financial Exploitation

Seniors are often more vulnerable to financial abuse than other populations. When older adults are dependent on the assistance of others, have minimal financial literacy, or experience diminished mental capability due to dementia or other cognitive impairments, they are more at risk of being exploited by an ill-intentioned party.

Sadly, it is the people closest to the victim who are most likely to perpetrate harm against them. NCEA statistics show that in 54% of reported cases of financial exploitation, a family member was found to be responsible for the abuse. Care workers were guilty in 31% of cases, and victims’ partners in 13% of cases. But in many instances financial abuse is carried out by a stranger, as is typically the case in phone or internet scams, counterfeit drugs or medical services, phony investment schemes, or con artists who offer fraudulent services.

Knowing the signs can help stop or prevent financial exploitation. When an individual is being abused financially, some of the following indicators may be observed:

  • Unexpected changes in financial accounts, such as large-sum withdrawals or transfers
  • Adding new names to bank accounts or credit cards
  • Revisions to a will or other financial documents
  • Signing away rights without explanation
  • Internet purchases in the name of someone who does not shop online
  • ATM use when the individual has limited mobility or lack of transportation
  • Missing jewelry, electronics, TV, art, antiques, furniture, silverware, other valuables
  • Unpaid bills
  • Purchase of products or services not typically used by the account holder
  • Making unwise investments or other poor financial decision-making
  • Failure to use money toward basic necessities such as medication or electricity
  • Malnutrition, especially with evidence of food purchases
  • Changes in behavior, depression, anxiety, guilt, fear, or loss of enjoyment of life

Combating Financial Exploitation

Cases of elder abuse can be exceptionally complex and are often difficult to identify. An unknown but estimated majority of cases go unreported. Sufferers of financial exploitation may not even be aware that they have been victimized. The good news is that older adults who become aware of a situation are more likely to self-report financial exploitation than other forms of mistreatment or neglect, such as physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, according to NCOA research findings. And because financial exploitation often takes advantage of the victim’s financial illiteracy, steps can be taken to inform and educate older populations on how to protect themselves.

Financial tutoring services, fraud watch networks, scam alert notifications, legal guides for seniors, and other programs like the Success After Financial Exploitation (SAFE) program help to provide guidance on money management and fraud protection. Other preventative measures can be greatly beneficial in protecting older adults from financial or other forms of abuse. These may include avoiding social isolation, participating in hobbies and group activities, regular family visits, monitoring personal health and finances, and ensuring a safe surrounding community and environment.

Contact an Albuquerque Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer

Our older adult population in Albuquerque, NM is a rich and thriving part of our local community. Like our clients, we at Buckingham & Vega Law Firm give absolute priority to protecting and defending the rights of our elders. Seniors who live in nursing homes or are under the protection of home care professionals can be especially vulnerable, as the people who love them may not be able to be by their side every day. If you have observed any signs of financial exploitation or other abuse, you know that you need to strongest legal representation to make sure that full justice is achieved. We invite you to get in touch with us today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.

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