Earlier this summer, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau hosted its first annual National Consumer Protection Week and as part of that presentation, there was special attention paid to what the government watchdog groups calls “a particularly troubling and challenging consumer protection issue”.
As elder law attorneys, we see this far more often than we’d like. It’s difficult to have a client sit across the desk from us and tell us about the financial exploitation they’ve endured. Worse, it can sometimes be difficult to understand that it’s a family member, which only further complicates the matter. While National Consumer Protection Week is over, we’re always on the lookout for beneficial information to help our clients and their families. This week, delve into this growing problem for the latest scams and resources.
Understanding What You’re Looking Out For
It’s absolutely crucial to know what it looks like and as a loved one, you may be more likely to spot potential problems.
CFPB is taking a big interest in eradicating these problems and while it’s committed, the agency also understands how challenging it can be from a legal perspective, especially if it’s other family members who could be playing a role. Other times it can be the caregiver or a third party associated with that caregiver or family member.
During one of the presentations, CFPB Director Richard Cordray told those in attendance the story of a home health caregiver and her husband who’d recently been indicted for defrauding an 80 year old man – a veteran with a dementia diagnosis – out of close to $200,000. Even as the indictments came down, law enforcement was contemplating even more charges. You can be sure efforts are being made to look into any other families they might have crossed paths with in the role of a home health care aide.
Elder Financial Scams
The financial scams are troublesome, too. There are countless stories of investment bankers and others in the financial sector who are facing multiple charges associated with elder financial abuse. One pair in California, both part owners of an investment firm, have been charged with a whopping 66 felony counts of elder abuse.
As mentioned, sometimes it’s a family member who’s been given power of attorney over a loved one’s financial considerations. It’s important to know what to look for and how to go about the business of choosing one in your family who can be trusted. It’s sometimes incredibly difficult to build a criminal case, should that person be a family member; it might be impossible to convince an elderly victim to press charges.
Ideally, choosing a power of attorney will involve several members of the family. If one person or a couple of people decide without consulting other family members that they will take on the task, there’s a good chance they’re already beginning to isolate the victim. Remember – those with nothing to hide – hide nothing.
Seek Out Financial Planning Legal Advice
Did you know that you can have a legal document properly executed and simply filed away for the future? It’s the ideal way for your loved one to make those decisions while their mind is still alert. Of course, not everyone will suffer from any kind of dementia, but the fact is, from a medical perspective, it’s just not feasible to make that assumption – proactive is always better than reactive. Having that document filed with your financial planning lawyer means it can kick in the moment you need it – and not a second sooner.
So what happens if you suspect the power of attorney has already begun taking from your loved one? Contact your attorney. He will be able to better handle the intricacies of this part of estate planning and can legally require an accounting of what the power of attorney has done on behalf of the loved one.
Fortunately, with greater attention being paid to these types of crimes, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for scam artists to succeed. Still, it’s always important to assume nothing and check in often. If nothing else, a suspicious agent with power of attorney will know that people will be dropping by to check on their loved one.