Elder abuse is an intentional or negligent act by any person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a senior. It is targeted at our nation’s most vulnerable adults, affecting at least 10 percent of our venerable elders each year.
You have likely heard reports of seniors being the victims of physical abuse, neglect and abandonment, psychological abuse, and sexual abuse. If someone you know is experiencing one of these types of abuse, learn more to take action now. However, there is another form of elder abuse that is shockingly common and can be just as serious: financial manipulation.
Financial manipulation occurs through financial abuse, scams, and exploitation, and an estimated $1.5 billion is lost due to financial exploitation of vulnerable seniors every year in New York alone. That, paired with the fact that New York State saw a 35 percent increase in financial exploitation from 2011 to 2014, warns us of the seriousness of this issue.
In this post, we will discuss the financial fraud and exploitation of our elders and what you can do if you suspect it is happening to someone you know.
What Should New Yorkers Know about Elder Financial Abuse?
Financial exploitation is described by the United States Department of Justice as illegal or improper use of an elderly’s money, property, or other resources for monetary or personal benefit. Elderly, here, refers to a person aged 60 or older.
In those same statutes, financial exploitation is said to include, but is not limited to:
- The use of deception, intimidation, or undue influence by a person in a position of trust with an elderly person to obtain or use the property, income, or resources of the elderly person for the benefit of a person other than the elderly person.
- The misuse of the power of attorney, trust, or a guardianship appointment that results in an unauthorized appropriation, sale, or transfer of the elderly person’s property, income, resources, or trust fund for the benefit of an entity other than the elderly person.
- Obtaining or using an elderly person’s resources without lawful authority by a person who knows or clearly should know that the elderly person lacks the capacity to consent to the release of his or her resources.
Sources of Elderly Financial Abuse
Financial exploitation can be committed by someone the victim knows, such as ill-intentioned family, friends, and caregivers. Elders can also be victims of financial exploitation by complete strangers.
Chances are that you, whether a senior or not, have experienced some sort of con artist, scammer, or fraud. It is important to warn our elderly loved ones of the dangers of the internet. While many in the younger generations have grown up learning about computer-based scams, older individuals may not know the telltale signs that come obviously to some of us.
What to Do if Someone You Know May Be Experiencing Financial Abuse
Financial exploitation is much more prevalent and devastating to victims than people realize. Exploitation can result in deep suffering to the victim, often causing the loss of their homes, access to quality personal and medical care, and their independence. Therefore, it is critically important to help the seniors in our lives regain their financial independence.
The first and most important thing you can do to help a potential victim of financial abuse is to be there for them. They may or may not know that they are a victim of exploitation, so as a loved one who they can trust, you hold significant power to help them break out of the cycle of elderly abuse.
The next action to take is to step in and contact organizations that can offer them protection:
- Call Adult Protective Services to report the abuse
- Call any credit card companies or other services that were abused to prevent further damage
- If they are veterans, contact Veterans Affairs
Reporting abuse offers help that is significantly important in helping a loved one break out the cycle of elder abuse.