As we age, our mental abilities often decline. Unfortunately, criminals may take advantage of an elder adult’s weakened mental state by defrauding them out of their hard earned assets. Financial exploitation (abuse) of seniors occurs when a relative or caregiver of an elderly person steals, withholds or otherwise misuses that elderly person’s money, property or valuables for personal advantage or profit.
Seniors are vulnerable to crime because they may be dependent on other people for their care or because they are not capable of fully understanding their financial situation. Financial abuse is an extremely under reported crime, either due to fear or lack of capacity. Sadly, financial elder abuse is most often committed by people the senior loves and trusts such as children or grandchildren.
About 90 percent of abusers are family members. Many times it is a family member who abuses alcohol or drugs, has financial hardships or feels burdened by their elderly relatives. Professional caregivers are another potential threat.
It is important for family and friends to look for patterns that might signal a problem. Be suspicious if the elderly person has a new “best friend,” becomes socially isolated or is hesitant to have contact with others unless his or her caregiver is present.
Also be on alert for:
- Unpaid bills when someone else has been designated to pay them.
- Missing property, large or unexplained withdrawals from bank accounts or transfers between accounts.
- Changes in banks or attorneys.
- Bank statements and canceled checks no longer coming to the elder’s home.
- Unfamiliar signatures on checks and other documents.
- Changes in spending patterns, such as buying items the senior doesn’t need.
- Lack of personal amenities, such as clean clothes and grooming items.
Getting older will happen to all of us, so it is important to have a plan in place to protect both yourself and your loved ones. One of the few ways to stop financial abuse is to report it. If you suspect that this is happening to someone you know you should contact your local police department or the Illinois Department of Aging- Adult Protective Services.
Until next month… Stay aware and stay safe.