We’ve all heard about an older person who has been a victim of some kind of mistreatment. Elder abuse is a social problem that must be eradicated as soon as possible. Data shows that the adult population over 60 years old will increase over the years. It is estimated that by 2025 the number of this group will double the figure registered in the year 2000. If mistreatment is not prevented, a very large number of seniors may be vulnerable to financial abuse in the short term.
In California, fraud and financial exploitation are one of the most common types of neglect. At 25%, it is the second most frequent form of maltreatment in nursing homes and private homes. But, why is financial abuse at such a high rate? As we show below, certain clear factors reveal the vulnerability of this social group.
If you or a loved one has suffered financial exploitation, we can help. Keep reading if you want to better understand this type of abuse, how to help victims, and the legal options available to sue the perpetrator.
Elder Abuse Is Present in Society
The World Health Organization states that elder abuse “is a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person.” Likewise, this mistreatment can take different forms, with economic abuse being one of the most commonly committed crimes. Financial exploitation of the elderly is any unlawful behavior by an individual who illegally or improperly uses the old person’s money or assets for their own purposes. These actions usually take place by taking advantage of the trust relationship previously established with the senior. This can be done by cheating, ignorance, or psychological violence, among many other means.
Around five million older people suffer some kind of abuse every year. This means that one out of every six elderly people has been abused, either in a nursing home or by a private caregiver. In a country with a senior population of around 52 million, this is far too high a figure. Of all victims of abuse, government agencies believe that only one in 24 cases is brought to court.
Relevant Facts About Financial Abuses
When we focus on financial exploitation, the numbers are very alarming: barely 1 in 44 abuses are reported. For reasons related to embarrassment or lack of knowledge, older people often do not report these crimes to the authorities.
Although there are not too many reports or ongoing investigations that bring to light the deplorable conditions in which thousands of seniors live, Adamson Ahdoot has managed to compile the following data:
- Annually, more than 5% of senior citizens experience financial exploitation.
- During the period from 2002 to 2016, the rates of abuse rates for men and women increased by 75% and 35%, according to the CDC.
- Financial exploitation decreased from 8.7 million cases in 2020, to 7.8 million in 2021. In contrast, the cost of such abuse rose 54%: from $177 million to $273.5.
- The average financial abuse case in the U.S. is more than $30,000.
- Deposit accounts are the most common way to take financial advantage of a senior.
- Cryptocurrency-related investments and scams have increased by as much as 350% in the last year.
- Family members, at nearly 60%, followed by friends and caregivers, at 17% and 15%, are the biggest offenders of financial exploitation.
Factors that Make Seniors Vulnerable to Financial Abuse
People over 60 years of age or dependent persons are easy victims of financial exploitation for different reasons. One of the most obvious reasons is health problems, such as mental impairments. Among these, people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease tend to be more susceptible to mistreatment because of their fragility. However, seniors who are in good physical and mental health are also vulnerable to financial abuse.
After collaborating with medical experts and investigators on elder financial exploitation cases, Adamson Ahdoot believes there are three critical tendencies that make victims more likely to be abused: wealth, excessive trustworthiness, and a progressive deterioration of financial knowledge.
The population over the age of 50 is considered part of the Baby Boomers II generation. That is, everyone that was born between 1955 and 1964. Today, seniors in this demographic have an average net worth of more than $240,000. Not only that but nearly half of the country’s consumption comes from this group. After accumulating so much wealth and seeing the cost of elder financial exploitation cases continue to rise over the years, who wouldn’t say that this generation is an attractive target for criminals?
Excessive Trust in People
This is the factor that our team considers key to being financially abused. Why? A high percentage of seniors rely on people’s goodwill. Research conducted by MIT and supported by UCLA revealed that people over 50 have a more trusting nature. The study showed that Baby Boomers had the highest rate of trusting different kinds of people. In contrast, younger participants were not as emphatic when asked which profiles inspired the most trust. One of the scientific reasons for these results has to do with the so-called gut instinct. The findings indicate that the older population does not easily distinguish potential risks.
Lack of Financial Knowledge
The final contributor to seniors’ vulnerability to financial abuse is cognitive. According to an analysis conducted by Boston College, older adults lose 1% of financial knowledge every year since they turn 60. The same goes for their ability to make financial decisions. The combination of both factors would lead to a large part of the over-60 population being unaware of the risk of financial abuse.
How Does Financial Abuse of the Elderly Occur?
There are as many types of financial exploitation as there are possible perpetrators. Within the different kinds of abuse, our team considers that it can be presented in three different ways:
Lotteries, contests, sweepstakes, or raffles. They usually present themselves to the elderly person with the excuse that they have won a prize. Generally, this involves them first paying taxes on the winnings to receive them.
Construction workers or property fixers. As one of the most popular cases among financial abusers, perpetrators convince the elderly that they need some type of home repair and urge them to pay upfront.
Authority. Abusers act as if they are law enforcement or state officials to get seniors to pay a non-existent fine. Sometimes, they convince them that there is a family member in jail, and they have to bail them out.
Charity. They appear at the victim’s home posing as representatives of a charitable organization or association in search of donations. This type of scam is more common after natural disasters.
Employees of public services. Sometimes an offender may act as if they are part of the water or electric utility company demanding payment of an overdue bill.
False relatives. In this cruel form of financial abuse, the offender poses as their grandchild, claiming hardship and money to support themselves.
Fake e-mails. This common practice takes place via e-mail. They usually come from forged accounts representing entities such as the IRS, requesting personal or credit card information.
Frauds and Scams
Fraudulent, dishonest, and abusive lenders. In the banking sector, there are many cases in which employees have pressured or misinformed elderly clients to make certain financial transactions that have a very high level of interest and do not entail any benefit.
Investments. The elderly are the easiest targets of pyramid schemes.
Identity theft. The perpetrators of these crimes use different tactics to obtain information that allows them to get hold of the victim’s Social Security number. With it, they can perform transactions such as opening new credit cards.
Caregivers, Friends, and Relatives
Power of attorney. Those closest to the elderly may try to obtain power of attorney to manage the account. If successful, they could withdraw money and manage assets and possessions as they see fit.
Credit cards or checks. By accessing cards, transfers, or checks, they have the freedom to withdraw funds or make illegal purchases.
Threats, psychological violence, or assaults. Older people are weak and cannot easily defend themselves when they are under threat to obtain money or certain goods.
Neglect or deprivation of basic care. A friend or relative may neglect their duty of care if they do not receive money in return. Or, conversely, a caregiver may deprive the person of basic care while still getting paid for it. This can range from not carrying daily medication to not keeping the property in good condition.
How to Prevent Vulnerable Seniors from Suffering Financial Abuse
Prevention is always better than cure. This expression is fully supported by experts and doctors, who believe that all possible resources should be applied to curb the epidemic of fraud and scams suffered by the elderly. However, while there is no specific way to prevent seniors from being vulnerable to financial abuse, there are some tips that could help prevent them from being exposed to it.
- Designate a trusted person to manage and handle the accounts. This person will act as a financial representative.
- Register with a service that monitors bank accounts, investments, and credit cards for suspicious activity.
- Do not stay alone or distance yourself from the community. It is recommended to stay socially active and in touch with loved ones. Social isolation, especially after the pandemic, has become a risk factor for financial exploitation.
- Keep all personal information and financial material in a safe place, away from potential offenders.
- Investigate the elder’s caregivers, whether they are employees of the nursing home or residential caretakers.
- Have the contact information of an experienced financial exploitation attorney on hand.
Legal Resources Available to Seniors Who Are More Vulnerable to Financial Abuse
Any older adult who has suffered neglect and abuse can turn to Adult Protective Services (APS) in their county. Each state has several agencies available to investigate cases. Also, the Department of Financial Services can handle the complaint and assist them with the process. The Attorney General’s Office is also available to take calls from those seniors who have been vulnerable to financial abuse. In addition to the social departments, the police can handle any emergency involving the offense. In the event of any type of financial neglect or exploitation in a nursing home, it is advisable to contact the facility’s ombudsman.
Besides getting help through government agencies, it is best to call an attorney who specializes in dealing with these cases. Although state entities will investigate what happened, with the guidance of professionals like the attorneys at Adamson Ahdoot, you will be able to get justice. Thanks to the recent Elder Security Act, coupled with California’s strict laws against elder abuse, and legal help from our experts, you can be sure that your abuser will pay for the crime.
Contact an Elder Abuse Attorney
The importance of caring for the elderly is an essential task for society. Despite this, seniors’ fragility and vulnerability to physical and financial abuse are still very much present in today’s world. If you or a loved one has suffered abuse and neglect by a caregiver at home or in a nursing home, call us today.
With over 100 years of combined legal experience, our attorneys will know how to bring your case to success. Not only will they get you the compensation you seek, but they will make the defendant pay for the crime committed. At our firm, we care about the elderly. We want a better community. And that’s why we will put all of our resources into fighting your case.
With a bilingual team ready to assist you 24/7, let us guide you through your case. Call today at (800) 310-1606 for a free, no-obligation appointment. We can help!