Elder financial abuse is growing among seniors, especially the disabled. Family and caregivers are the best to safeguard seniors against this crime. But family and caregivers are often at the heart of the abuse. In fact, up to 90% of abusers are family or trusted others. Other commonly trusted people often named in elder financial abuse include:
- Friends and acquaintances
- Bank employees
- Doctors or nurses
Adult Protective Service (APS) programs report that elder financial abuse is on the rise. Worse, research shows that elder financial abuse is widespread, expensive, and even deadly.
According to APS, one in nine seniors reported being abused, neglected, or exploited in the past twelve months, with 1 in 20 older adults reporting financial mistreatment.
The challenge is that elder abuse is rarely reported, and financial abuse is seldom reported. The alarming truth is that abused seniors are three times more likely to die and elder abuse victims are four times more likely to go into a nursing home.
Seniors are also common targets of scams leading to financial abuse. Common scams impacting seniors are:
- Lottery & sweepstakes scams
- Home repair/traveling con men
- Grandparent scam: You urgently need to send money to release your jailed grandchild
- Charity scams
- Utility company scams where you step outside to help, and another person steals your valuables
- Telemarketing scams and accompanying threats
Seniors need to be aware of all forms and persons involved in elder financial abuse. For example, predatory lending tactics pressure seniors into loans they can’t afford; financial planners pressure the sale of an annuities they don’t need; or a medical professional fraudulently bills Medicare.
On the personal side, family members also put seniors at risk. Pressuring a senior to turn over Power of Attorney over finances or taking advantage of a joint bank account, are examples. Using ATM cards and stealing checks to withdraw money from the victim’s accounts.
Violence and neglect are often at the heart of elder financial abuse, usually from those closest to the person. Examples include threatening to abandon, hit, or otherwise harm the victim unless the senior gives in to the demand. Another example is withholding care unless an asset is given in exchange.
Besides the financial loss, the senior may suffer emotionally. Loss of trust, depression, fear, guilt, and shame are common negative emotions experienced by seniors who are victims of financial abuse.
Seniors and their caregivers can prevent or reduce the crime. Steps to stop or prevent financial abuse include, closing joint bank accounts, cancelling Power of Attorney, or seeking the help of an elder attorney for guardianship and management of funds.
If you suspect financial elder abuse, the best place to start is with Indiana Adult Protective Services (APS). There is no harm in reporting a case. APS will investigate and assist the senior as needed. The Indiana state hotline number for APS is 800-992-6978. You can learn more about APS in Indiana at IN.gov, search term Adult Protective Services.
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