Preventing Financial Exploitation

Financial Exploitation means the initial depletion of bank account, credit accounts or other resources for the benefit or advantage of the offender.

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Possible indicators of Financial Abuse:

  • Unusual or inappropriate activity in bank accounts
  • Signatures on checks, etc. that do not resemble the older person’s signature, or signed when the elder person cannot write
  • Power of attorney given, or recent changes or creation of will, when the person is incapable of making such decisions
  • Unusual concern by caregiver that an excessive amount of money is being expended on the care of the person
  • Numerous unpaid bills, overdue rent, when someone is supposed to be paying the bills for a dependent elder
  • Placement in nursing home or residential care facility which is not commensurate with alleged size of estate
  • Lack of amenities, such as TV, personal grooming items, appropriate clothing, that the estate can well afford

An elderly person may be at risk for abuse, neglect and/or exploitation if:

  • The level of care they are receiving is inconsistent with their resources or needs
  • They seem nervous or afraid of the person accompanying or ‘helping’ them
  • Someone displays sudden attention or affection for the elder
  • Someone promises life-long care in exchange for property
  • They are unable to remember signing documents or making financial transactions
  • Someone is attempting to isolate them from family or other support
  • Property is transferred to someone else or is reported missing
  • They seem confused about transactions or withdrawals from their account
  • They seem coerced into making transactions
  • The elder or the acquaintance gives implausible explanations of finances or expenses
  • Sudden changes in the elder’s appearance or self-care
  • The elder becomes emotionally or physically withdrawn
  • A professional ‘assisting’ them behaves or responds questionably

Financial exploitation of our elderly is a growing problem and is under reported by the victim’s family or caregivers. Financial exploitation means the intentional depletion of bank account, credit accounts or other resources for the benefit or advantage of the offender. Victims of financial exploitation may live in the community or in a health care facility; may be in poor health or have a diminished mental capacity and can be easily swayed. The motivation of the offender to steal will probably fall into one of two categories; greed or desperation.

Financial abuse robs many elderly victims of their homes, life savings and possessions, as well as their dignity and independence. The damage is devastating because it comes at a time when the elderly victim is least likely to recover what they have lost.

A Case Study of Financial Exploitation

A call was received concerning Hank, an elderly man in his late 70’s. An unusual amount of activity had occurred in Hank’s banking account over the last several weeks. Large sums of money had been withdrawn.

The Social Worker visited him and determined that Hank is nearly blind and there is a question about his mental abilities. Hank became acquainted with a man named Richard about six months ago, after Richard answered a help wanted ad in the newspaper. Hank had been looking for someone to assist with grocery shopping, errands, and a few chores around the house.

Hank and Richard hit it off right away. Hank felt fortunate to find someone so responsible and helpful as it had been getting really hard to manage a home alone. Hank quickly became dependent on Richard for assistance in many activities. Before long, Richard was involved with bill paying. Hank came to trust Richard and, since he could not see, simply signed checks for whatever bill Richard presented to him.

The Social Worker was able to look at various bank statements and piece together checking and saving account withdrawals in excess of $50,000.00. A determination of financial exploitation was substantiated. The case was referred to law enforcement and the County Attorney for prosecution. A retired bank officer was located who agreed to serve as guardian/conservator of Hank. Hank continued to live in his home with assistance until his death.