Elder financial abuse costs older Americans more than $2.6 billion a year and is most often perpetrated by family members and caregivers. Additionally, for each case of abuse reported, there are at least four that go unreported. Read on for some tips on avoiding financial abuse as we get older.
A report released by the Better Business Bureau, which is accompanied by tip sheets for older adults and families on how to prevent elder financial abuse, states that up to one million older Americans may be targeted yearly. Family members and caregivers are the culprits in 55 percent of cases, although financial losses are higher with investment fraud scams.
The report suggests that the “typical” victim of elder financial abuse is between the ages of 70 and 89, white, female, frail and cognitively impaired. She is trusting of others and may be lonely or isolated, although reports show that there is a very diverse population of victims. Does this sound like someone you know? I know it does for me.
“Elder financial abuse has been called the ‘crime of the 21st century,’ ” said Sandra Timmermann, Ed.D., director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute. “With the present state of the economy, older Americans are at a greater risk more than ever of having their financial security threatened.” And, for every dollar lost to theft and abuse, there are still more related costs associated with stress and health care and the intervention of social service, investigative and legal entities.
“This is also a growing problem made greater by the increase in the number of older Americans as targets, the relative wealth of this group, a change in family structure and the availability of technology that may make such abuse somewhat easier,” said Timmermann.
Sixty percent of substantiated Adult Protective Services cases of elder abuse involve an adult child, the report found. Sons are 2.5 times more likely than other family members to take advantage of parents. Signs of abuse include indications of intimidation by or fear of a caregiver, isolation from family and friends, disheveled appearance, anxiety about finances, new “best friends” and missing belongings.
“One trait perpetrators of elder financial abuse have in common is that they exhibit excellent persuasion skills,” says the report. “They are very good at cultivating relationships and convincing older adults that they are worthy of their trust and money. In general, perpetrators are not bound by conventional norms or business ethics, and rationalize their criminal and abusive behavior.”
According to the report, elder financial abuse can be prevented by the following:
1. Plan ahead to protect your assets and ensure that your wishes are followed
2. Consult with a licensed financial advisor or attorney before signing complex agreements or anything you don’t understand
3. Build relationships with financial professionals who can assist you in monitoring for suspicious activity
4. Leave a paper trail by using checks and credit cards instead of cash
5. Trust your instincts and say, “No.” Remember, it is your money
6. Report suspicions to a trusted person if you feel pressured to provide financial information or access
7. Ask for details in writing and get second opinions about financial matters before changing your power of attorney, wills, trusts, etc.
Berger Estate & Elder Law P.A. has been serving Kansas City for over 30 years providing Trusted Council with Proactive Solutions. Call us today at (913) 491-6332, visit our website berger-lawfirm.com or stop by our conveniently located offices at 11233 Nall, Suite 140 Leawood, KS 66211 for more information.