Elder Financial Abuse – On the Rise, What to Know

As the population of those over the age of 50 has continued to grow, we have seen a sharp increase in the incidence of financial exploitation. Elder financial abuse has been on the radar of consumer and legislative groups and measures are being taken to protect the aging population. Because this group is responsible for 49% of consumer packaged goods sales in the nation, they have become increasingly targeted by scammers and abusers. What’s most disheartening is that elder financial exploitation (EFE) is often committed by someone that the person knows.

The Older Americans Act of 2006 defines elder financial exploitation as “The fraudulent or otherwise illegal, unauthorized, or improper act or process of an individual, including a caregiver or fiduciary, that uses the resources of an older individual for monetary or personal benefit, profit, or gain, or that results in depriving an older individual of rightful access to, or use of, benefits, resources, belongings, or assets.”

Studies at MIT and UCLA have shown that Baby Boomers, and older populations in general, are more trusting. One study noted that one region of the brain responsible for what’s referred to as “gut instinct” loses acuity over time, making an aging population less able to detect untrustworthy individuals.

Some of the most common financial abuse activities and scams

  • Fraudulent Lottery/Sweepstakes – requests for money in order to win a larger sum
  • Home Repair – requests for funds up front to do repairs, such as driveway recoating and other odd jobs
  • Law Enforcement – impersonators may request payment on an “unpaid” fine or go as far as saying a family member needs payment for bail money
  • False Charity Organizations – phone scams often follow natural disasters requesting donations
  • “Grandchild” fraud – scammers will call impersonating a family member in distress and ask for money
  • Email/Phone Phishing – these false “official” notifications from scammers posing as government workers requesting social security number verification
  • Caretakers – misuse of funds, spending on unnecessary items, threats or withholding of care or duties

How to Protect Yourself or a Loved One from Elder Financial Abuse

  • Stay active and connected – isolation can make older adults more vulnerable and less apt to reach out
  • Maintain financial independence – joint bank accounts with family members should be carefully thought out. The help of an elder law attorney can help you map out the best plan for your resources
  • Review your homeownership options – as one of an older adult’s most valuable assets, it’s important to protect your investment, particularly if you are considering downsizing or assisted living
  • Power of Attorney—designating a power of attorney through a reputable legal firm is a responsible way to manage wealth, assets and resources as you age
  • Revocable Trust– another way to protect your assets – naming a fiduciary and setting up a trust is a way to prevent potential access to resources

Need help or have questions?

Oast & Taylor’s team of elder law professionals can help you with any questions that arise, for yourself or for family members. This is precisely why, while not always the easiest conversations to get started, it’s important to talk to your family about your plans, and to enlist the guidance of an attorney to help you customize an estate and/or long-term care plan.

Other Virginia Resources

Adult Protective Services (888)832-3858

Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services

Office of the Attorney General – Elder Abuse

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