Ask anyone what they believe the most heinous crime there is after homicide and physical assaults of any kind. Odds are, you’ll hear financial abuse against the elderly. There are few things more despicable than taking advantage of our most vulnerable: the elderly and children. And by the way – did you know Americans over the age of 50 control 70% of wealth in the U.S?
When it comes to seniors and their finances, the last thing any of us consider is the possibility of fraud being committed. After all, we tell ourselves that all levels of hell will break out if anyone hurts Mom or Dad, right? Unfortunately, despite the “I dare you because you’ll live to regret it” mindset we have, there are many people who aren’t intimidated by such threats and who actually make their way in this world by stealing from others. Add to that many 30-somethings are not only raising their children, but they’re also tending to their aging parents and it’s easy to see why things sometimes fall to the wayside. It has nothing to do with neglect, but has everything to do with Mom trying to ensure Grandma’s needs are tended to while rushing to get to Sally’s softball game. And in our modern society, it seems we’ve taken a step back – but in a good way for the most part – to the way of the world generations ago. It’s not at all unusual for three or more generations to be living under the same roof. It’s those seniors who pride themselves on living independently who are most at risk.
Less than a year ago, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced it would begin investigating those who target society’s most vulnerable. The biggest obstacle so far is that too many times, those financial crimes against the elderly go unreported. It’s now believed there are at least 5 million cases of elder financial abuse in the United States each year; sadly, law enforcement learns of only 1 in 25 cases.
Our role as elder care lawyers in Essex Junction Vermont is to help protect our clients and sometimes, that comes as a proactive reaction to prevent problems before they start. Remember, fraud is the use of deception, trickery, false pretense, or dishonest acts or statements for financial gain.
Here are a few things caregivers should be alert to, according to CFPB:
- Strangers or distant relatives promising lifelong care in exchange for money or property and not following through on the promise.
- Using deception and being too accommodating to gain victims’ confidence.
- Telemarketing scams. Perpetrators call victims and use deception, scare tactics, or exaggerated claims to get them to send money. They may also make charges against victims’ credit cards without authorization.
Stay on the lookout for:
- Unpaid bills and/or eviction notices
- Withdrawals from bank accounts or transfers between accounts that the older person cannot explain
- Bank statements and canceled checks no longer come to the elder’s home
- New “best friends”
- Legal documents, such as powers of attorney, which the older person didn’t understand at the time he or she signed them (Remember – we work hard to go beyond a passing relationship with our clients. Our goal is to know our clients and those family members who they trust).
- Unusual activity in the older person’s bank accounts including large, unexplained withdrawals, frequent transfers between accounts, or ATM withdrawals
- Anyone who expresses excessive interest in the amount of money being spent on the older person
- Belongings or property are missing
These are just a few of the things caregivers should be on the lookout for. If you have any concerns or questions about your loved one’s well-being or estate planning, give us a call. Peace of mind is the cure-all.