California seniors are among the most vulnerable groups. Unfortunately, this makes them the target of abuse that can compromise their physical or psychological health and even their finances. Financial elder abuse is one of the most common ways that elders are exploited; this is how to recognize the signs and to take action if necessary.
Signs of financial elder abuse
Different signs can signify that someone is a victim of financial elder abuse. One is large withdrawals from their bank accounts or transfers to unknown accounts. Many older people keep cash in their homes for emergencies and might find it has gone missing. Valuables suddenly missing is another sign that someone may be the victim of financial elder abuse.
Unexplained credit card charges, especially those involving purchases a person would never make, are red flags. Other common signs of financial elder abuse are bills going unpaid, forged checks and sudden, inexplicable changes to estate planning documents. In the worst-case scenario, the victim could even be evicted because of unpaid rent.
Risk factors of financial elder abuse
Certain factors increase a person’s risk of financial elder abuse. Those who are isolated with no support system or who have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease are the most vulnerable; however, even people with loved ones around them often and who are mentally sharp can still fall prey. Some older people are too trusting or not knowledgeable about certain scams, which increase their risk of financial elder abuse.
Knowing who commits the crime
Often, the perpetrator of financial elder abuse is someone the victim knows and trusts. Caregivers, lawyers and financial professionals sometimes take advantage of older adults by helping themselves to their finances. Sadly, most instances of the crime are committed by a family member.
Strangers also commit financial elder abuse in different ways. Common scams through snail mail, online, over the phone or in person can lead to victimization. A stranger can also observe someone at a pay terminal or ATM and open an account using their information.
Falling prey to financial elder abuse is devastating. The first step in taking action is reporting the crime to law enforcement and, if appropriate, filing a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator.