Elder abuse is a far more common issue than most give it credit for, and while the term “abuse” often connotes a physical altercation, it’s important to note that not all cases—not even most cases—of abuse are physical. In fact, according to the Colorado Department of Human Resources, when it comes to elder abuse, Colorado sees roughly half of its cases coming from neglect and financial exploitation.
Financial exploitation occurs when an elder’s funds, property, or assets are misused. Some cases of financial exploitation appear in the form of large, sudden financial transactions, while others are more gradual processes.
In any case, this form of elder abuse is not only wrong—it can also cost the elder money they need to live.
While financial exploitation of elders easily includes scams of all varieties, such as fake lotteries, pleas from far-away swindlers and the all-too-common identity theft, the majority of perpetrators are actually members of the elder’s own family. In a 2014 study of over 4,000 cases of financial elder abuse, family members made up nearly 60 percent of the offenders, while friends and neighbors came in at 17 percent and home care aides followed at 15 percent.
It’s generally a good idea to directly ask the elder if anyone has pressured them into signing financial documents or giving up money, but the elder might not be forthcoming about the situation. This could be because of embarrassment or shame about the situation, because of fear of the abuser or of repercussions that could affect the abuser should the situation come to light—especially if that abuser is a beloved family member or friend—or simply because the elder is unaware of the situation to begin with.
There are several signs to watch out for if you suspect an older adult in your life might be the victim of financial abuse. These include—but are certainly not limited to—the following:
- Unexplained withdrawals from the elder’s bank account
- Sudden changes in banking practices
- Confusion over financial transactions
- Forgery of the elder’s signature
- Abrupt changes in or confusion regarding a will or other financial document
- Payment for services not actually rendered or for unnecessary services
- Sudden transfers of assets from the elder to another individual
- Unexplained disappearances of valuables
- Sudden changes in financial situation
No elder should suffer from financial exploitation, especially after it has already taken them a lifetime to get where they are today. By being proactive in watching out for their financial wellbeing, you can be the difference for the elders in your life.
If you have reason to believe financial elder abuse is taking place, the next step is to take action, and the legal team at Bachus & Schanker can help. Many cases of abuse, including financial exploitation, go unnoticed and the victims in those cases never receive the help they deserve. Bachus & Schanker has handled elder abuse cases for years and has what it takes to help your loved ones find the peace and security they deserve.