What Actually Is Financial Elder Abuse?
Financial elder abuse is when someone takes, misappropriates or obtains the property of a senior (usually someone who is 65 years or older) with the intent to steal, defraud or use that property for their own personal gain.
Is There A Certain Type Of Person That Is More Likely To Become a Victim Of Financial Elder Abuse?
People who have some form of cognitive impairment may be more likely to become a victim of financial elder abuse. Seniors tend to be more trusting than younger people. I see a lot of people with dementia, Alzheimer’s or some other type of cognitive impairment that makes them more susceptible to abuse. We also see a lot of seniors who are orphans, don’t have children or don’t have children close by. As a result, there is no one looking after them. So, the combination of someone who is over the age of 65, has a cognitive impairment, has assets and is all alone is a recipe for disaster. A senior is kind of a sitting duck waiting to be taken advantage of.
Who Are Typically The Perpetrators Of Financial Elder Abuse?
In my experience, the perpetrators of financial elder abuse have been across the board. Most commonly, financial elder abuse is carried out by family members who see the senior as a cash cow or an ATM machine, but it’s not always family members who are involved. I’ve seen car salespeople, home contractors (plumbers, electricians, pool guys) and caregivers gain the trust of elders and access to their bank accounts and financial records. Boyfriends and girlfriends are commonly involved as well.
Anyone who gains the trust of a senior and is in a position to enter their personal or financial affairs can become a perpetrator. I think family is the most common because it’s much more likely to go unreported. People are generally afraid of reporting theft of their property when it’s their children or grandchildren because they don’t want them to get into trouble and they are somewhat embarrassed.
Are Financial Elder Abuse Cases Involving Family Members Harder To Prove?
Financial elder abuse cases are not harder to prove, but they are more difficult to stop. If we report financial elder abuse and try to stop it, then seniors are often afraid that their family member or caregiver won’t be around to help them anymore. They are afraid of losing that relationship. So, the consequences tend to be greater because there is a risk of losing the person who has been there to take the senior to the doctor’s office, grocery shopping etc. It becomes much more difficult to find a replacement for those people, and that’s why it’s harder to stop when it’s a family member.
If A Family Member Perpetrates Financial Elder Abuse Would It Also Constitute Emotional Abuse?
If a family member perpetrates financial elder abuse, emotional abuse would be a part of the plot to steal that senior’s money. That family member who may be a caregiver and who may live in the home, lives off the social security, doesn’t pay any bills, doesn’t pay for food and drives the senior’s car. Most of the time, the senior is just grateful to have another person at home for safety and security reasons. Sometimes they are unaware that they are being taken advantage of, but even if they are aware, they are still grateful that they are not alone. Those are really sad cases. If you are taking a senior’s money for your own use and that senior goes without, ends up broke or their house ends up in someone else’s name, then that’s abuse.
Such situations can enrage a person, and that’s one of the reasons I got into this. It is enraging that the perpetrator had the audacity to steal from a little old lady or little old man, but it’s also enraging that there is no government or police agency in place that can stop it. Every county in California has a version of adult protective services, and while they are good-hearted and hardworking social workers, they have no statutory authority to actually stop abuse; all they can do is take a report. If adult protective services find an egregious activity, all they can do is report it to the district attorney’s office for investigation or prosecution. If there is physical abuse, then the police will probably get involved more quickly, but financial elder abuse is a little tougher to prove.
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