Financial Abuse

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What is Financial Abuse?

Financial Abuse or Exploitation: the illegal, unauthorized, or improper use of an older individual’s resources by a caregiver or other person in a trusting relationship, for the benefit of someone other than the older individual. This includes, but is not limited to, depriving an older person of rightful access to, information about, or use of, personal benefits, resources, belongings, or assets. Examples include forgery, misuse or theft of money or possessions; use of coercion or deception to surrender finances or property; or improper use of guardianship or power of attorney.

Financial exploitation is a fast-growing form of abuse of seniors and adults with disabilities. Situations of financial exploitation commonly involve trusted persons in the life of the vulnerable adult, such as:

  • Caretakers

  • Family members

  • Neighbors

  • Friends and acquaintances

  • Attorneys

  • Bank employees

  • Pastor

  • Doctors or nurses

  • Lottery & sweepstakes scams “You’ve already won! Just send $2,500 to cover your taxes”

  • Home repair/traveling con men “We’re in your area and can coat your driveway / roof really cheaply”

  • Grandparent scam: You’re called and told your grandson is in jail and needs you to send money immediately

  • Charity scams: falsely soliciting funds for good causes; very common after disasters

  • I’m from the utility company; I need you to come outside with me for a minute (while accomplice steals valuables)

  • Roof repair, yard work, home repair scams

  • Telemarketing scams and accompanying threats

  • Money sent via telegraphs to people claiming lottery winnings

  • Predatory Lending – seniors pressured into taking out inappropriate reverse mortgages or other loans

  • Annuity sales – the senior may be pressured into using the equity realized from a reverse mortgage (or other liquid assets) to buy an expensive annuity which may not mature until the person is well into their 90’s or over 100

  • Investment/securities schemes – pyramid schemes; unrealistic returns promised; dealer is not licensed

  • Internet phishing – false emails about bank accounts

  • Identity theft – credit cards opened fraudulently, etc.

  • Medicare scams – these are the costliest in terms of the dollar amounts

  • Using a Power of Attorney, given by the victim to allow another person to handle his/her finances, as a license to steal the victim’s monies for the perpetrator’s own use

  • Taking advantage of joint bank accounts in the same way

  • Using ATM cards and stealing checks to withdraw monies from the victim’s accounts

  • Threatening to abandon, hit or otherwise harm the victim unless he or she gives the perpetrator what he/she wants

  • Refusing to obtain needed care and medical services for the victim in order to keep the person’s assets available for the abuser

  • In-home care providers charging for services; keeping change from errands, paying bills which don’t belong to the vulnerable adult, asking the vulnerable adult to sign falsified time sheets, spending their work time on the phone and not doing what they are paid to do

Reports of financial exploitation of vulnerable adults often involve allegations of abuse and neglect as well.

The individual frequently experiences:

  • Loss of trust in others

  • Loss of security

  • Depression

  • Feelings of fear, shame, guilt, anger, self-doubt, remorse, worthlessness

  • Financial destitution

  • Inability to replace lost assets through employment

  • Inability to hire attorney to pursue legal protections and remedies

  • Becoming reliant on government ‘safety net’ programs

  • Inability to provide long term care needs

  • Loss of primary residence

Interventions to address financial abuse include closing joint bank accounts, having the victim revoke the power of attorney; putting in place a responsible person or agency to assist with managing the victim’s funds; and restarting utilities if they’ve been shut off.

  • Carried out by unethical doctors, nurses, hospital personnel, and other professional care providers, examples of healthcare fraud and abuse regarding elders include:

  • Not providing healthcare, but charging for it

  • Overcharging or double-billing for medical care or services

  • Getting kickbacks for referrals to other providers or for prescribing certain drugs

  • Overmedicating or under medicating

  • Recommending fraudulent remedies for illnesses or other medical conditions

  • Medicaid fraud

  • Duplicate billings for the same medical service or device

  • Evidence of overmedication or undermedication

  • Evidence of inadequate care when bills are paid in full

  • Problems with the care facility: poorly trained, poorly paid, or insufficient staff; crowding; inadequate responses to questions about care

  • Significant withdrawals from the elder's accounts

  • Sudden changes in the elder's financial condition

  • Items or cash missing from the senior's household

  • Suspicious changes in wills, power of attorney, titles, and policies

  • Addition of names to the senior's signature card

  • Unpaid bills or lack of medical care, although the elder has enough money to pay for them

  • Financial activity the senior couldn't have done, such as an ATM withdrawal when the account holder is bedridden

  • Unnecessary services, goods, or subscriptions

If you need help

Visit One Place Family Justice Center at 530 S. Lawrence Street, Montgomery, Alabama or call 334.262.7378 or if you are in immediate danger Call 911.

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