Financial Exploitation of the Elderly: The Signs to Look For
Google “financial exploitation in the news” and these are some of the headlines you will find:
- Wetumpka woman charged with financial exploitation
- Monticello man pleads guilty to financial exploitation
- The frontlines of elder financial exploitation: Sometimes, bank tellers are the only people able to see the abuse
Several years ago this headline jumped out at me: “Dead man wheeled to bank to cash check.” Financial exploitation doesn’t always jump out at us, but it should. Every day in the United States someone’s finances are being exploited by someone they thought they could trust. This problem is not going away, and the elderly are the biggest target. If you have loved ones that you feel may be vulnerable, it’s important to know what it is and the signs to look for to prevent abuse.
Iowa law defines financial exploitation of a dependent adult as “the act or process of taking unfair advantage of a dependent adult or the adult’s physical or financial resources for one’s own personal or pecuniary profit, without the informed consent of the dependent adult, including theft, by the use of undue influence, harassment, duress, deception, false representation, or false pretenses.” Iowa Code Section 235B.2(5)(a)(1)(c)(2015)
Financial exploitation can have a direct impact on care and/or the quality of care by denying victims of the financial resources needed to access basic medical treatment or prescription drugs.
In the case of the 45 year old man from Monticello, Illinois above, he pled guilty to financial exploitation after stealing $37,000 from his 96 year old grandmother. As her power of attorney, he was able to abuse the authority given to him by taking his grandmother’s funds for his own personal use, and failing to use her funds to provide for her needs. Meanwhile, her nursing home bills and other bills for her care went unpaid. His failure to pay her bills as her power of attorney eventually led to an investigation by the Illinois Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Office.
On February 23, 2015, in Florence, Alabama a 49 year old man and his wife were arrested for using his father’s Social Security funds to pay their own bills. The man’s father, who was 78, had died in January. The investigation that led to the arrest discovered the theft may have begun all the way back in 2008.
Unfortunately, financial exploitation cases such as these are all too common. Fortunately, there are a few warning signs to look for:
- Unpaid bills when there are sufficient resources
- Unusual activity in bank accounts
- Caretaker has unusual interest in the amount of money spent on dependent adult’s care
- Dependent adult’s basic needs for food and shelter are not being met after financial affairs are turned over to caretaker
- Signatures on the checks do not match those of dependent adult
If you suspect someone is the victim of elder abuse or financial exploitation, you should report the suspected abuse to DHS, Protective Services at (800) 362-2178. Cases are investigated by local authorities.
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Lincoln Savings Bank, Member FDIC.
Information provided by Julie Versluis, Former Trust Employee