Learn what you can do to protect your loved ones from financial abuse
In the United States, the number of adults aged 65 and older is estimated to exceed 72 million by 2030. This includes the 75 and older population, which is projected to be over 33 million.
While we all know that physical injuries like slip-and-fall accidents become more common with age, we don’t often think about the financial dangers facing older Americans.
The unfortunate truth is our aging population is often the target of financial abuse and exploitation. Elder financial abuse can arise when a family member or other person takes advantage of an older adult’s diminished mental and physical abilities, trust, resources and isolation to manipulate them to misappropriate funds or property.
Grandparents, like all of us, are vulnerable to fraud and identity theft
According to the National Council on Aging, there are as many as 5 million cases of elder abuse in the U.S. annually, with only a small percent of those cases reported to authorities. There are many potential reasons for this, including feelings of shame and worry that reporting fraud may lead to less independence if family members or authorities believe they aren’t able to care for themselves.
This growing vulnerability makes the older population prime targets for abusers—family members, nursing home staff or other caregivers who have access to their personal information and finances.
While it’s difficult to estimate how often the elderly, defined as adults over the age of 65, are victims of financial fraud or abuse because many of the cases undoubtedly go unreported, many experts believe that the elderly are up to 3 times more likely to experience financial scams than any other age group.
In fact, according to the National Council on Aging, elder financial fraud and abuse cost the elderly population in the U.S. an estimated $2.6 billion to $36.5 billion annually.
Many seniors don’t know when someone is attempting to scam them
In recent years, more and more cases of financial elder abuse have been making headlines. But many seniors are still unaware that they’re being targeted by scammers, according to a recent survey.
The survey found that 84 percent of seniors who were targeted by scammers responded in some way to the scammer without realizing they were victims of a crime. Many of the scams targeting seniors are so sophisticated that it would be easy for anyone at any age or education level to be duped.
Fortunately, many seniors who were surveyed were also able to identify future scams after common scams were explained to them.
Signs of elder financial abuse
If you have elderly loved ones, you may be concerned about their health and safety—especially if they’re living alone. While we all hope that we can count on the people we entrust to care for our loved ones, the truth is that seniors are often targeted for financial abuse by relatives and caregivers.
Knowing the signs of financial elder abuse is key to protecting a loved one’s health and financial well-being.
The most common form of financial elder abuse involves using a person’s personal information and finances without their permission. This can look like forging a check or withdrawing money from an ATM without permission. Sometimes, it may involve opening a credit card in that person’s name without their knowledge or consent.
If you’re concerned that an elderly relative or friend may be experiencing financial abuse, keep an eye out for these telltale signs:
- Caregiver refuses to allow you access to the person they’re caring for
- Caregiver is unhelpful when asked questions about the care they provide
- Unexplained withdrawals from your loved one’s bank account
- Unexplained purchases on credit cards
- Any unusual purchases made through digital sources
If you suspect that someone is abusing a senior financially, don’t hesitate to report it to authorities. Your call could make all the difference not only for your loved one but for countless other potential victims as well.
How to help grandparents avoid and report fraud
The government and law enforcement agencies are aware of the increasing prevalence of elder abuse and exploitation, and we encourage you to notify the appropriate authorities immediately if you suspect your loved one may be the victim of fraud.
Additionally, there are resources out there to help you and your loved one if you believe they’re being abused, scammed or taken advantage of in any way, including:
The Department of Justice’s National Elder Fraud Hotline, which can be used to report fraud against anyone over the age of 60. More information can be found on their website or by calling 833–FRAUD–11 or 833–372–8311.
It’s also always a good idea to begin discussing wills and estate plans with your older family members, especially if they appear to be losing some of their mental faculties. This can help prevent financial abuse as well as preserve some independence for them as they grow older.
If you think your elderly loved one is being taken advantage of or abused by their caregivers or nursing home staff, it’s vital that you get help from an experienced personal injury lawyer who specializes in nursing home negligence and abuse cases.
At Chappell, Chappell and Newman, we understand how elder abuse and neglect can devastate an entire family. Our experienced personal injury attorneys have a proven track record of success helping families throughout the state of South Carolina get the justice and compensation they deserve in cases of nursing home and caregiver abuse. Contact us today for a free consultation of your case.