Elder abuse laws vary from state to state. Elder abuse can involve physical harm, emotional abuse, and failure to provide the necessities of life. Elder abuse can also involve financial fraud or financial exploitation - taking money from a vulnerable elderly person.
Friends and Family May Commit Financial Fraud
Often, the person committing financial fraud is a caregiver, family member, or someone else the elderly person knows and trusts. This individual may forge the elderly person's signature, cash checks without permission, steal property, or coerce the elderly person into signing a will or a contract. Signs of financial fraud by a caregiver or relative may include a sudden change in the elderly person's financial situation, items missing from the home, unpaid bills, and unexpected changes in the elderly person's insurance policies, will, or property titles.
Be Wary of Strangers Asking for Money
Strangers commit financial fraud against the elderly by asking for donations to a fake charity, offering investment opportunities, or telling the elderly person about a prize that can be claimed by sending cash to the caller. Signs of financial fraud by a stranger may include an unexplained lack of cash, checks written to unfamiliar organizations, and ATM withdrawals by an elderly person confined to bed.
Preventing Financial Fraud
Concerned friends, neighbors, and family members can help prevent financial abuse of the elderly by checking in with the person from time to time. Many vulnerable victims are isolated from others, so make it clear that you care what happens to the person. Occasionally arrive at the person’s home without calling, ask questions when things don't seem right, and listen carefully for potential problems.
Take Action If You Suspect Financial Fraud
If you believe that an elderly person may be a victim of financial fraud, the proper course of action depends on the urgency of the situation. If the person is in physical danger or does not have enough money to meet basic needs, you may call law enforcement for assistance. In less serious situations, contact your local Adult Protective Services office for advice. An investigator will be sent to the house to assess the situation and take steps to correct any issues. In the case of a scam targeting the elderly, contact your state's Consumer Affairs department to report the situation. If you suspect that your friend of loved one is no longer capable of making good financial decisions, you can initiate guardianship or conservatorship proceedings.
An Elder Law Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding financial fraud involving the elderly is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact an elder law lawyer.