Last year, almost 25,000 cases of suspected elder financial abuse were reported by U.S. banks, more than twice the number disclosed five years ago. Undoubtedly, many more instances of abuse take place away from the watchful eye of banking and legal institutions, and are therefore left unreported. Banks are becoming increasingly aware of potential scams, and they are successfully stopping many of them before money is lost. However, fraudulent behavior is often difficult to prosecute, which is why it is important to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Lawyers who are able to offer support and legal protection for vulnerable seniors before they fall victim to fraud must also remain vigilant and be alert to potential financial abuse.
The Consequences of Financial Abuse
It is estimated that annual losses due to elder financial abuse amount to over $36 billion. Seniors independently managing their own money might be victims of a phone scam by an unknown criminal organization. Alternatively, an official but unscrupulous representative may charge excessive fees to an elderly and vulnerable client. As well as losing money, being the victim of financial abuse can have a negative impact on your credit report. As a result, victims are further penalized with higher interest rates on any future loans, or even denied credit altogether. A poor credit score can last for years but, in many cases, it is possible to dispute fraudulent items and re-establish a good report.
Raising Awareness of Abuse
In order to prevent financial abuse of vulnerable people in the first place, legal protection is available. For more information about that, please contact us. In addition, in response to the exploitation of vulnerable seniors, Florida’s Elder Abuse Prevention Program provides services and programs to protect seniors from physical, emotional and financial exploitation. The department works with the Department of Children and Families (DCF) Adult Protective Services and the Aging Network to protect disabled adults or elderly people with services including protective supervision, placement and in-home and community based services. To report abuse, you can go to the DCF website or call the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873).
Questioning Unusual Financial Activity
In California earlier this year, two women were arrested for elder abuse, having persuaded their victim to let them take over from licensed professionals to manage her affairs. The case serves as a reminder to be alert to any unusual financial activities for your friends and family members and question any major changes to advisors. Unfortunately, according to the National Adult Protective Services Association, over 90% of financial abuse is carried out by trusted friends and family members, and, because many victims are unwilling to report family members, elder financial abuse can be difficult to prosecute. To give more power to financial institutions faced with unusual transactions or banking requests, a federal law known as the Senior Safe Act was enacted to allow financial institutions to report suspected cases of abuse, and, in some states, delay transactions until they have been verified.
Within a growing elderly population, financial abuse is on the rise. Because so many losses are suffered at the hands of trusted representatives, financial abuse can often be difficult to detect. For this reason, everyone must be vigilant for signs of fraud and unusual financial activity in their own and loved one’s accounts.
If you feel you are the victim of fraud or elder abuse, contact the local police immediately. If your finances are involved, contact your financial institution for more assistance. AARP offers a free resource called the Fraud Watch Network Helpline. If you think you have been targeted or are the victim to a scam, you can report the scam and receive assistance by calling toll-free 877-908-3360 Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.