Elder Financial Abuse on the Rise; Losses at $3 Billion
Losses due to elder financial abuse are almost $3 billion a year, according to a 2010 survey by the MetLife Mature Market Institute.
A good portion of the abuse (35 percent) can be attributed to actions taken by family, neighbors, caregivers and friends. Of course, the 35 percent is only the number of reported incidences. For every reported case, it’s estimated that there are four or five cases that don’t get reported.
“Why do we so often find that the elderly are victims of financial abuse? Well, they frequently have assets that can be easily accessed, they generally don’t report the crimes (and sometimes they don’t even know they’ve been scammed), and they are very trusting individuals,” noted elder law attorney Jim Ward. “The combination of these attributes makes them vulnerable. In a warning about senior fraud, the FBI noted that people who grew up in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s were generally raised to be polite and trusting. Con artists exploit these traits.”
It was reported that a fast-growing area of elder abuse is financial mis-appropriation. Everything from e-mail investment scams to cash or check theft seems to be on the rise.
“I know a gentleman who was a brilliant scientist with a PhD. He continued with private research projects after retirement, and sold those developments to multinational firms. He outlived two wives, and had a wonderful retirement. Somewhere along the way, however, people started to take advantage of him,” Jim Ward shared. “When his daughter eventually took over his checkbook and the paying his bills, she discovered that he had made a series of donations of nearly $60,000 in the previous few months. Nobody had ever heard of the people or groups that had solicited those donations, and the gentleman himself couldn’t recall who they were or why he had given them money.”
The courts see cases like this everyday. The best way to counteract elder abuse is to have the proper paperwork in order so that directions are clear, and funds are protected and properly distributed when the time is right.
Why do we so often find that the elderly are victims of financial abuse? Well, they frequently have assets that can be easily accessed, they generally don’t report the crimes (sometimes they don’t even know they’ve been scammed), and they very trusting individuals. The combination of these attributes makes them vulnerable.
In a warning about senior fraud, the FBI noted “People who grew up in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s were generally raised to be polite and trusting. Con artists exploit these traits.”
Jim Ward also shared, “In another situation, a 90-year-old client came to me because he had two houses and his daughter had taken over one, kicked him out, and changed the locks. How do these things happen? We all need to be more aware and alert to protect our elders.”
Jim Ward is a San Jose elder law attorney and San Jose estate planning lawyer. With offices in San Jose and Gilroy, The Law Offices of James A. Ward helps clients throughout Santa Clara County. To learn more, please visit https://www.WardESQ.com.