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Financial Elder Abuse

Elder Financial Scam Attorney

There are many ways the elderly can be taken advantage of; they may be verbally abused, physically abused or neglected, sexually abused, psychologically abused, or financially abused. The elderly are vulnerable to all types of abuse and neglect. Physically, they may have challenges, such as limited range of motion, fragile bones, unsteadiness, hearing loss, or vision loss—all of which could reduce their ability to “fight back” when they are physically or sexually abused. Dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other cognitive issues can make seniors more vulnerable to financial abuse, as well as to other types of abuse and neglect.

Unfortunately, there are people in the world who prey on the elderly. Financial elder abuse can take place in the senior’s home or in an assisted living facility or nursing home. An elderly person can be coerced, scammed, or even threatened into giving money to others. Because senior citizens are most likely to own their own home, have good credit, and have some level of “nest egg,” they are an attractive target to con artists. Further, those who grew up in the 30s, 40s, and 50s are more likely to have been raised to be both polite and trusting, making them prime targets for financial elder abuse.

If you find your elderly loved one has been the victim of financial elder abuse, it is important that you seek immediate help. This help may come from law enforcement, local senior organizations, or from an experienced Chicago elder abuse attorney. The Finn Law Firm understands what a difficult time this is—we are compassionate to your situation, yet aggressive in pursuing justice for you and your loved one.

More About Other Types of Elder Neglect

What Is Financial Elder Abuse?

When a senior’s money, assets, or property is used improperly or illegally, financial elder abuse has occurred. Cashing the checks of an elderly person without that person’s knowledge is one instance of financial elder abuse and forging the elderly person’s signature on a document is another. In some instances, an abuser can steal outright from the elderly person or may coerce an elderly relative into making changes in his or her will, which benefit the abuser.

Withdrawals made by family members or nursing home staff without the permission of the senior are all-too-common, as are phone scams from unknown scammers. A significant amount of financial elder abuse occurs over the telephone, door-to-door, or through an advertisement. Fake charities, unnecessary home improvement schemes, phony investments, fraudulent sweepstakes, and even telling grandparents that their grandchild is in jail and they must transfer money to get the grandchild out of trouble are all-too-common financial schemes.

Why are the Elderly So Vulnerable to Financial Abuse?

In addition to being trusting and likely having some level of financial means, the elderly could be lonely and more willing to listen than other age groups. Older Americans are much less likely to report fraud for a variety of reasons. They may be ashamed of having been scammed—or may not even realize they have been scammed. They may not know who to report the financial abuse to or may not want to report because they are afraid their loved ones will think they no longer have the mental capacity to take care of their own affairs. When an elderly person does report financial abuse, they are often poor witnesses, unable to supply enough detailed information to make a case against the scammer. Seniors are especially susceptible to products that promise better cognitive function, those which relieve pain, and those that are touted as anti-cancer.

Who are the Perpetrators of Financial Elder Abuse?

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, perpetrators of financial elder abuse are most likely to be adult children or spouses and may have substance abuse issues, a history with the legal system, unemployed, or experiencing mental stress. While both males and females are perpetrators of financial elder abuse, males are more likely to do so. In a study reported by the NCEA, family members were perpetrators of financial elder abuse about 58 percent of the time, followed by friends and neighbors at about 17 percent.

Home health care aides, nursing home staff, and assisted living staff make up about 15 percent of all perpetrators of financial elder abuse, leaving about ten percent of financial elder abuse being perpetrated by strangers. While strangers are the group with the lowest level of being financial elder abuse perpetrators, they are also the group most likely to be reported. Financial elder abuse is self-reported at a higher rate than instances of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse or neglect.

Signs Your Loved One is the Victim of Financial Elder Abuse

According to the Nursing Home Abuse Center, there are certain indicators that suggest financial abuse against a senior citizen. While one of these indicators may not suggest full-blown abuse, more than one indicator could certainly indicate full-blown financial abuse. These indicators of financial elder abuse include:

  • If the elderly person is living in his or her home, there may be evidence of unpaid bills, disconnection of utilities for non-payment, or even an eviction notification.
  • Bank statements and canceled checks may be a significant indicator of financial elder abuse if the abuser is coercing the senior to make withdrawals or write checks to the person or for a scam.
  • Any large withdrawal from the senior’s bank, as well as unusual transfers between accounts, can indicate financial abuse.
  • The care the senior is receiving appears substandard, even when the senior has the funds to pay for care.
  • The perpetrator is showing an inordinate interest in how much money the senior is spending (because the perpetrator wants the money for himself or herself).
  • There are suddenly a number of ATM withdrawals.
  • It appears some of the senior’s belongings are mysteriously missing.
  • Legal documents or checks have a signature that does not look like the senior’s signature.
  • The senior often talks about his or her new “best friend,” particularly when he or she lives in an assisted living facility or nursing home.
  • There is a lack of documentation for certain financial arrangements.
  • The senior seems to either not know or not understand his or her own financial situation.

Steps to Take if You Believe Your Loved One is the Victim of Financial Elder Abuse

Aging Care, while first noting that some believe elder abuse is truly the “crime of the century,” has listed steps that should be taken when you suspect your elderly loved one is the victim of financial elder abuse. Aging care also notes that it is estimated by the National Adult Protective Services Association that less than one in 44 cases of senior financial abuse is ever reported. If you do suspect financial elder abuse, consider the following:

  • Local law enforcement usually has a form that allows you to report your concerns, and some will have hotlines for financial elder abuse.
  • It is important that you have the necessary information which will permit law enforcement or adult protective services to do their job, including identification of the location of the suspected financial abuse, whether at the senior’s home, an assisted living facility, or a nursing home.
  • You must be able to be specific about what you saw or heard, which led you to believe financial abuse was occurring.
  • If there are others who saw or heard the same things you did, it will be important for them to come forward and corroborate your story.
  • Finally, strongly consider contacting an elder law attorney in your area—your attorney can clearly advise you on the necessary steps that should be taken to protect your elderly loved one or friend.

While it can be difficult to report financial elder abuse when the abuser is a family member or friend, it is crucial that you speak up. Reporting financial elder abuse takes the issue out of your hands, allowing local law enforcement or social services agencies to best protect your elderly loved one. 

How the Finn Law Firm Can Help with Financial Elder Abuse

If you have any concerns regarding an elderly loved one’s safety, whether the issue is financial abuse, physical abuse or neglect, psychological abuse, verbal abuse, or sexual abuse, it is always better to be safe than sorry. A dedicated Illinois financial elder abuse lawyer from the Finn Law Firm can discuss the financial abuse—or any other type of elder abuse—with you today. When you contact the Finn Law Firm, you will speak to the firm’s principal attorney, Larry Finn, throughout the process. Larry has more than thirty years of experience helping seniors and their loved ones. The Finn Law Firm serves Chicago and the surrounding areas, including Geneva, Waukegan, Yorkville, Joliet, Rockford, Sycamore, Woodstock, Kankakee, Morris, Ottawa, Edwardsville, Springfield, Peoria, and Belleville. Through co-counsel relationships, Larry Finn is also able to help many financial elder abuse victims outside the state of Illinois. The firm offers free, comprehensive consultations. Don’t wait—contact the Finn Law Firm today to get the help your elderly loved one needs—and deserves.

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