It is not uncommon for a senior to experience financial abuse. Often, the first signs are unpaid bills and unexplained withdrawals from bank accounts. Sadly, those responsible for financial abuse are most commonly close family members. Elder financial abuse is the highest reported type of abuse of the elderly and to protect loved ones, it is vital to know the signs.
The United States Department of Justice defines elder abuse as “an intentional or negligent act by any person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to an older adult.” With one in 7 Americans aged 65 or older, the occurrence of financial abuse is increasing. What is perhaps most surprising is that family members are the most likely ones to commit financial abuse. This is likely to occur because family members have detailed knowledge of a senior’s financial situation and can hide the abuse from authorities.
The National Institute of Health identifies some common signs of elder financial abuse:
- Stealing property or funds from bank accounts
- Forging signatures
- Abusing joint signature on bank accounts
- Cashing checks
- Taking pension checks
- Abrupt change of will or other documents
- Overcharging for care
- Denying seniors access to funds or accounts
The National Center for Elder Abuse reports about 60% of all self-reported abuse cases are related to financial exploitation. In a report released by the National Institute of Health, reasons for the abuse include the fact the elderly are most vulnerable due to forgetfulness and in making poor judgments in trusting their finances to family members who want to exploit them. With many elderly individuals suffering from memory loss or physical illnesses, they are easy targets for family members.
Also, others in the family are less likely to be suspicious of a family member who promises to help an elderly individual even if that individual steals from the senior. There are indicators that a family member may not be the best choice to care or have contact with a senior. The National Institute of Health cautions family members who are concerned about a loved one to watch for a family member trying to get close to a senior who has substance abuse issues, gambling problems, mental health concerns or other financial issues.
To take action to stop elder abuse, the National Center for Elder Abuse recommends reporting the situation to the state adult protective services. In New Jersey, each county has an adult protective services office which handles all allegations of elder abuse and neglect. Those who are concerned about a senior should contact their local office.
With financial abuse being the most common type of elder abuse, not only being aware of the signs but also knowing what to do if this occurs is essential. Bratton Law can help you keep your loved one protected from financial exploitation. Contact us today to learn how.