There are several types of elder abuse and neglect that occur in various settings. It is estimated that one in ten seniors has been abused in the past month. Although there is not much data available, it is a very common phenomenon in nursing homes and private homes. These can take the form of assault or emotional violence, or elder financial abuse in California nursing homes. Indeed, national and state agencies consistently warn of this being a major public health problem.
For this reason, June 15 has been designated as the official day against elder abuse by the United Nations General Assembly (WHO). However, the principles of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day should not only be observed once a year but every day.
Adamson Ahdoot would like to contribute to raising awareness of this problem and help victims and their families to win cases where elderly people are dehumanized. Although there are many examples of abuse, on this page we will focus on one of the most popular: the financial exploitation of the elderly.
Here we will explain everything that has to do with this terrible problem. We will show you everything from how to prevent elder financial abuse to how to file a lawsuit in California, among other topics.
Why Are Older Adults at Risk?
Mistreatment of the elderly is a violation of human rights that can manifest itself in different ways. Unfortunately, different types of senior abuse are widespread today. Official data show devastating figures: one in six elderly people suffers from mistreatment. A WHO study conducted in 52 countries estimates that 16% of the elderly population experienced some form of violence. The most common type of abuse is psychological or emotional, with 11.6%, followed by financial abuse, with 6.8%. The latter is becoming more and more prevalent in the over-60 demographic.
Why is it increasing? One of the reasons why this population group tends to be financially exploited is their lack of familiarity with digital platforms. This makes them less likely to check and maintain the health of their accounts. However, as we will see below, there are many other reasons behind these abuses, such as loneliness or dependency.
What is Elder Financial Exploitation?
There are many official definitions that summarize this type of abuse. The California government states this abuse as an “illegal or improper exploitation of money, property or other resources to an elderly or disabled adult for monetary or personal gain.” These behaviors take place when individuals deceive or fraudulently take advantage of victims’ finances.
What Laws Protect Against Elder Financial Abuse in California?
Financial exploitation of the elderly is highly punishable by law. Under California Welfare and Institutions Code section 15600, the state seeks to protect older adults and dependents. The legislation establishes the following as financial abuse:
- Takes, secretes, appropriates, obtains, or retains real or personal property of an elder or dependent adult for wrongful use or with intent to defraud, or both.
- Assists in taking, secreting, appropriating, obtaining, or retaining real or personal property of an elder or dependent adult for wrongful use or with intent to defraud, or both.
- Takes, secretes, appropriates, obtains, or retains, or assists in taking, secreting, appropriating, obtaining, or retaining, real or personal property of an elder or dependent adult by undue influence.
Fraud on an elderly person can be considered a misdemeanor or a felony. Penalties can be up to four years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.
Nationally, the United States has adopted new laws over the years. The first to address elder abuse was in 1965, with the Older Americans Act (OAA). Later, in 1987, the Nursing Home Reform Act was passed. The latest, the Elder Justice Act, was established in 2010. It was the first national regulation to take specific action against the neglect and abuse of senior citizens.
Regarding the financial safety of the elderly, a bill was recently passed by Congress. This legislation encourages financial advisors and companies to report any suspicions or indications of financial abuse of older people.
Statistics on Financial Exploitation of the Elderly
There are not many studies or research dedicated to analyzing the improper or illegal use of an elderly person’s money or resources. However, due to the recent public exposure of these problems, data have begun to be collected. This evidence attests to the increase in this type of abuse over the past decade. Although last year’s figures show a small decline in the number of national cases, the total cost of fraud has grown shockingly from year to year. Despite going from 8.7 million cases in 2020 to 7.8 million in 2021, it has seen a 54% increase in the cost of these abuses. While two years ago financial exploitation was $177 billion, in 2021 it amounted to $273.5. Of all cases alone, roughly 333,000 scams and frauds involving financial abuse of elderly victims are reported.
The average loss per case exceeds $30,000, according to data obtained from various public agencies. The most common form of abuse is related to technology and customer service, with deposit accounts being the most common, at 62%. This is followed by debit and credit cards, with 18% and 9%. However, investments and cryptocurrency scams are the forms of scams that have grown the most over the last year: between 300% and 350%.
Facts About Financial Elder Abuse Fraud in California
An analysis conducted by the Department of Justice states that more than 5% of men and women over the age of 60 or dependent adults are victims of financial exploitation each year. Of these, individuals with cognitive disabilities suffer the greatest financial losses. In addition to disabled people, women are more likely to be financially abused. Specifically, 35% more than men.
Of all types of mistreatment, elder financial abuse is the second most prevalent in California at 25%, after neglect at 26%. Unfortunately, this form is estimated to have an extremely low incidence of reporting, especially in California: only one in 44 incidents is reported to authorities.
California is the state with the highest number of elder abuse cases in the country. Of all reported maltreatment, which averages seven million, more than 11% comes from the Golden State. In 2021, California’s total losses are believed to have exceeded $40 billion in a total of 940,000 cases. This, however, is only an estimate. Officially, they only registered about 40,000 cases with losses of $1.7 billion.
The National Center Against Elder Abuse shared a study on whom the perpetrators of these crimes are. The public agency stated that more than half of the financial exploitation cases are committed by family members, at 57.9%. Those seniors surrounded by children or unemployed family members are at a higher risk of abuse. Friends and neighbors, with 16.9%, and caregivers of the elderly, with 14.9%, are also frequent perpetrators of these crimes.
Symptoms of Financial Abuse of the Elderly
Financial exploitation is a complex scourge to detect. In most cases, older adults are embarrassed or do not realize they are being abused until months or years later. This is especially true if the senior is in charge of their funds and does not have others overseeing their accounts. However, there are certain warning signs that indicate if the senior is suffering financial exploitation:
- Deterioration of physical and emotional well-being.
- Disappearance of valuable items or assets.
- Unusual movements in the bank account, such as large withdrawals.
- Unexpected changes in banking procedures.
- Unknown charges on credit cards or new accounts that were never opened.
- Notice of cancellation of service due to non-payment.
- Going to the bank in the company of a stranger.
- The unexpected presence of family members with whom you had no previous contact.
- Addition of a new name on the bank signature card.
- Sudden changes in the will or other financial documents.
- Suspicious activity or persons at the elder’s home.
- Checks or cash in the caregiver’s name.
- ATM withdrawals by seniors who do not use a debit card or leave the home.
Types of Elder Financial Abuse in California
As mentioned, this form of abuse is difficult to trace, as it leaves no physical marks on the victim. In fact, the crime can continue for years, or until there are no assets left. What starts with the theft of bills from a wallet can culminate in the sharing of an account. The long-term consequences of these actions can be devastating. It can involve the loss of life savings and the lack of liquidity to pay rent or basic living expenses.
The types of financial exploitation that encompass the majority of abusive behaviors towards this demographic are:
- Abuse of legal documents
- Extortion and manipulation
The most obvious examples of financial fraud include the unauthorized use of a credit card. However, there are thousands of variations. Some common cases are:
- Manipulating and convincing the senior of the urgent need for money for expenses or food staples for his or her family.
- Forging signature to obtain goods.
- Selling items that have been stolen from the senior’s property, such as a ring or even a car.
- Taking advantage of the elderly person’s weak condition to change the holder of documents.
Although most cases occur through family members and acquaintances, there are other ways to commit elder fraud. Telemarketing, mail, and the Internet are very effective ways to carry out this crime. These range from donating to a fraudulent charity to paying money or providing personal information to claim some type of prize in sweepstakes.
Preventing Financial Exploitation
Generally, establishing a series of preventative measures to avoid elder abuse is always better than remedying the events. Elder financial exploitation can be devastating to a senior in California. Not only to their wallet, but because when they become aware of the fraud, they are likely to experience emotional and mental anguish. Anxiety and depression are often some of the most common injuries. There are different ways to prevent this type of elder abuse.
- Have a trusted family member or friend oversee the accounts and finances.
- Create a notarized power of attorney.
- Research caregivers who will care for the elder.
- Remain socially active.
- Avoid joint bank accounts.
- Establish a revocable trust.
- Keep financial materials or valuable assets in a locked drawer.
- Contact an attorney before signing any documents.
How to Report Elder Financial Abuse in California
Experts point out that the official figures are much lower than the real ones. Senior citizens’ lack of knowledge about the various common scams to which they are exposed can increase the risk of them becoming victims. The importance of explaining and communicating the dangers of financial fraud can prevent one from experiencing a stressful and debilitating case. Likewise, it is important to inform how to report if abuse occurs.
Options for reporting financial mistreatment of the elderly include:
Contact the authorities. Calling 911 can be an effective measure if the crime is escalating. Working with law enforcement is crucial to hold the abuser accountable.
Communicate with the National Center on Elder Abuse. These experts will be able to provide helpful information and guide you through the process.
Alert the facility director or a family member. In the case of a nursing home, social workers can be alerted about financial exploitation. In a private home, it is recommended to notify a family member.
Reach out to ombudsmen. These workers are the advocates for nursing home residents. They are experts in investigating any claims of financial exploitation of the elderly.
State and national organizations and agencies:
Financial elder abuse in California is being monitored by law enforcement and government agencies. In addition to the laws we have outlined throughout this page, there are public entities whose goal is to preserve the health and rights of older adults. Even something as simple as stealing money from a wallet can be punished if there is evidence.
California’s Adult Protective Services (APS) Program is the lead agency for investigating all cases of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Each county has an APS. According to official estimates, 90% of the older adults who come to the Los Angeles Adult Protective Services office are due to financial exploitation.
Why It’s Important to Get Legal Advice
When dealing with elder mistreatment cases, there is no better way to obtain justice than by hiring an experienced elder financial abuse lawyer in California. Elder abuse requires sensitive and assertive attention. However, the legal process of such a case takes time. If you want to obtain fair compensation and at the same time punish the perpetrator of the crime, don’t hesitate to call Adamson Ahdoot.
Our lawyers have extensive experience in the legal field of elder abuse, so they will know how to make your case successful. Our attorneys will develop an elaborate and solid plan to get the victim the benefits he or she deserves. We will gather all the facts and talk to the necessary doctors to plan a strategy to convict the abuser. Additionally, we have the best resources to protect your well-being and your assets.
The Best Choice for Your Elder Financial Abuse Case in California is Adamson Ahdoot
Protecting the rights of seniors is key to maintaining a healthy and peaceful society. Data from the State Attorney General’s Office predict that by 2030 the elderly population will become twice as large as it was in 2010. The need to establish measures to protect the elderly now will be important to ensure the quality of life of the next generations.
With over 100 years of combined legal experience, our attorneys can guide you through your elder abuse case. We know how frustrating it is to suffer financial exploitation. Scammers and fraudsters not only rob seniors of their wealth but also of their independence.
If you or a loved one has been a victim of financial abuse, we can help. Call us at (800) 310-1606 for a free consultation about your case. Our bilingual team is available 24/7.