Elder financial abuse results in an estimated $3 billion in losses each year, but the actual amount may be much higher because some seniors don’t know they’re being victimized and others are unable or unwilling to report potential misconduct.
Every Wisconsin county—including Dane County—has an elder abuse agency that investigates reported neglect, abuse or financial exploitation of seniors, including those who reside in nursing homes or other assisted-living facilities. If you believe you’re a victim of financial abuse, or if you suspect a loved one is being financially exploited, it’s a good idea to talk to your local Adult Protective Services office as soon as possible. It’s also advisable to discuss your situation with a knowledgeable attorney.
The Madison nursing home abuse attorneys at Boller & Vaughan have an extensive record of success in elder abuse cases, including those related to financial exploitation. Please call us at 608-268-0268 to schedule your free consultation, or contact us online to get started now.
Types of Senior Financial Abuse
Seniors are often targeted for financial exploitation due to perceived vulnerabilities. Many seniors, for example, suffer from mental health issues such as dementia; others may lack financial literacy, and others may struggle to navigate modern technology or misleading marketing.
There are numerous examples of financial abuse, but they tend to fall into one of two categories:
- Theft: When a person unlawfully takes possession of another’s property or assets
- Fraud: When a person uses false statements or other forms of deception to take possession of another’s property or assets
Common elder abuse scams include but are not limited to:
- Telemarketing and internet fraud: These phone- and email-based scams often use aggressive tactics and exaggerated promises of cash, goods or benefits in exchange for a fee
- Identity theft: This occurs when a scammer gains unlawful access to a senior’s personal information (such as a Social Security number, credit card number or bank account number) and uses it for personal benefit
- Grandparent scam: The perpetrator pretends to be a grandchild in trouble and asks the victim to send money
- Lottery/sweepstakes scam: Victims are led to believe they’ve won a cash award but need to pay taxes or other fees in order to collect
- Charity scam: This false soliciting on behalf of charities or nonprofits is especially common after natural disasters
- Investment schemes: Dishonest investors may try to sell purposely confusing investment products or promise unrealistic returns on an investment
- Abuse of guardianship or power of attorney: An authorized family member or caregiver uses his or her position to access the victim’s finances for personal benefit
In some cases, the perpetrator may use threats or force to keep the victim silent, adding another layer of abuse to this tragic situation.
Warning Signs of Elder Financial Abuse
According to the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA), only 1 in 44 financial abuse cases is reported. Not all seniors are aware of misconduct, and others are helpless to do anything about it.
It’s important that family members, caregivers and friends know how to detect signs of elder financial abuse and what to do in the event of suspected abuse. Red flags include:
- Unexplained financial withdrawals or transfers
- New individual(s) added to financial accounts
- Changes to wills, trusts or other legal documents
- Sudden disinterest in financial matters
- Missing personal property
- Untreated physical or mental problems that may affect behavior and decision-making
- Social withdrawal
- Mentions of new or previously unknown friends
If you suspect the financial exploitation of an elderly loved one in Wisconsin, your first step should be to contact the state’s Adult Protective Services agency. It’s also a good idea to discuss your situation with an attorney who has experience in elder abuse cases. A knowledgeable lawyer may be able to help protect your loved one—and other at-risk seniors—from further exploitation and pursue financial compensation for damages.
Elder Financial Abuse: Perpetrators & Risks
And the problem is expected to grow with the senior population over the next three decades. According to a census report, “In 2050, the population aged 65 and over is projected to be 83.7 million, almost double its estimated population of 43.1 million in 2012.”
This is significant because most financial abuse victims are between the ages of 80 and 89, and most require some level of help with either health care (particularly those dealing with cognitive disabilities like Alzheimer’s disease) or home maintenance because of physical limitation. By 2050, all surviving baby boomers will be at least 85 years old.
Perpetrators of financial exploitation are rarely strangers to the victims. The Washington Post reports that 75 percent of elder financial abuse is initiated by a family member or a known acquaintance; as much as 90 percent of elder abuse or neglect cases involve close friends or family.
Common ways family members or caregivers exploit vulnerable adults include:
- Abusing Power of Attorney privileges
- Taking advantage of joint checking accounts
- Withdrawing cash or stealing checks to withdraw a senior’s money
- Refusing medical treatment to protect future financial exploitation
- Threatening violence or abandonment unless the senior complies
- Overcharging for caretaker services
- Keeping change or money after running errands for a senior
The Madison attorneys at Boller & Vaughan have considerable experience with nursing home abuse cases and other forms of elder neglect and exploitation. Our accomplished lawyers are dedicated to protecting the rights of victims throughout Wisconsin.
If you believe a family member is a victim of elder financial abuse, call us today at 608-268-0268 or contact us online to arrange your free consultation.