As we age, so do our parents. At some point, the parent-child relationship dynamic effectively flip-flops and an adult child becomes the caretaker. If you find yourself at that point, you are undoubtedly worried about your parent becoming the victim of elder abuse. Among the most prevalent type of elder abuse is financial exploitation. To help you keep your elderly parent safe, the elder law attorneys at Northern California Center for Estate Planning & Elder Law discuss signs that your parent may be a victim of elder financial abuse.
What Is Elder Financial Abuse?
Elder financial abuse, or exploitation, can be defined very broadly as the illegal or improper use of an older person’s money or property. This type of elder abuse takes numerous forms and can occur under a wide variety of scenarios, including:
- Family members taking advantage of an elder person’s diminished capacity to either cajole, or outright steal, money or assets.
- A caregiver using an elder person’s money without permission or taking property from the individual’s home.
- A family member or caregiver getting an elderly individual to sign documents under false pretenses that transfer assets to the perpetrator, either now or after the elderly person’s death.
- Targeting an elderly individual for financial scams, over the telephone, through the mail, on the computer, or even in person.
Elder Financial Abuse Facts and Figures
As the older population continues to grow at an astounding rate, issues that impact the elderly have taken on a heightened importance in the U.S. Most people find the facts and figures relating to elder financial exploitation to be shocking. For example:
- Experts believe more than one in 10 seniors will be the victim of elder abuse
- 1 in 20 older adults indicating some form of perceived financial mistreatment occurring in the recent past
- Each year, there are over 5 million instances of financial exploitation with a senior victim
- For every instance of elder abuse reports, as many as 14 go unreported.
- 90 percent of the perpetrators are family members
- When a family member is the perpetrator, two-thirds of the time it is an adult child or spouse of an adult child.
Why Are Older Adults Targeted?
Anyone can be the victim of financial exploitation; however, the elderly make particularly easy and lucrative targets for predators for several reasons, including:
- People over 50 control over 70 percent of the nation’s wealth.
- Older individuals tend to be more trusting
- Seniors often do not know the value of their assets, particularly when the asset is real property that has appreciated considerably.
- Many elderly victims suffer from dementia and/or other physical or mental disabilities that make them easier targets.
- Older individuals are much less likely to be technologically savvy, making them easier to scam.
- Seniors tend to be predictable, making them easier to victimize.
How Do I Know My Parent Is a Victim?
One of the biggest problems with preventing elder abuse in general, and punishing the perpetrators, is that victims are reluctant to come forward. That can also make it difficult for adult children to help protect an elderly parent. It also makes it even more important to be vigilant about looking for the signs that could indicate your parent if the victim of financial exploitation, such as:
- Bills piling up that should have been paid
- Utilities disconnected without an explanation
- Funds missing from financial accounts
- Checks missing from a check register
- Items missing from the home
- Medications running out far ahead of the refill date
- Caregiver spending more time than necessary with your parent
- Caregiver exerting too much authority over your parent
- Secrecy regarding finances that was not there in the past
- A new “love interest” your parent met online
Any one of these alone may not indicate a problem; however, the more signs you notice, the more the odds are that someone is preying on your parent. Ultimately, this is one of those situations when it is better to be safe than sorry.
Contact Elder Law Attorneys
Please download our FREE estate planning checklist. While our firm does not handle contested matters, we can assist with planning that can reduce or eliminate the chances for financial exploitation of the elderly. For assistance, please contact us at the Northern California Center for Estate Planning & Elder Law today by calling (916)-437-3500 or by filling out our online contact form.
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