Financial Exploitation of the Elderly – What are the signs?

Many people may be aware of the growing problems involving financial exploitation of the elderly, but don’t know when it’s happening to them or a family member until it’s too late. It’s important to be aware, in matters of financial exploitation of the elderly, what are the signs? What are some of the common themes and signs to look for to determine if a member of your family is being exploited due to their age or other infirmity?

According to Florida’s Department of Elder Affairs, Florida’s official state agency for administering service programs for the elderly, Florida currently ranks first in the nation in percentage of citizens who are elders, with 4.45 million residents age 60 and older. This number is expected to double to 9.7 million by the year 2030. Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Broward Counties rank at the top of the list, 1, 2, and 3 respectively, of most populous counties with residents ages 60 and older. Many of these elderly adults are vulnerable to financial abuse and exploitation because of their age, or a disability which does not allow them to adequately provide for their own care and protection, and therefore they rely on others to assist them. As a result of Florida’s large population of elderly adults, it is a prime target area for those looking to capitalize on the vulnerabilities of its elderly population.

Crimes involving financial exploitation of the elderly in Florida are in fact growing at an alarming rate. Even more alarming is that many of these cases go unreported. A significant reason for the underreporting is the fact that financial exploitation, more often than not, is being committed by sons, daughters, grandchildren, spouses and friends or neighbors whom the elderly adult trusts. Florida elderly exploitation statistics indicate that nearly 30% of all exploitation cases are committed by a son or a daughter. Other perpetrators include in-home caretakers, business persons or professionals targeting the elderly through scams or fraudulent investment schemes, even overcharging for services. Because the exploitation is usually committed by someone whom they trust, the elderly person usually isn’t aware they are being exploited, or when they learn they have been exploited they fail to report it because they are embarrassed and in fear of losing their independence. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the families, friends, and members of the elderly persons community to protect them by looking for signs that might indicate an elderly adult is being financially abused or exploited.

Some of the signs to look for that may indicate an elderly person is being financially exploited include:

  • Bills or creditors going unpaid for extended periods, utilities being shut off or eviction notices being sent and which the elderly adult is not generally known for not paying their bills and has the ability to pay
  • New friends or acquaintances which the elderly persons becomes suddenly attached to and speaks often about
  • Sudden changes to long-standing estate planning documents, including Wills, Powers of Attorney, Revocable Trusts
  • Executing financial documents or powers of attorney which the elderly person cannot understand or explain
  • Unusual activity on the elderly persons bank accounts including abnormally large or frequent cash withdrawls, frequent transfers to new or unknown accounts, changes to beneficiary designations and the addition of co-owners to their accounts
  • Inconsistent or unusual signatures on checks
  • Speaking negatively about children, or spouses which is uncommon, especially after another son or daughter, friend or distant relative has spent an extended amount of time with them
  • Care and services which are not at the level expected for someone with their wealth
  • Taking out new mortgages on their home or opening new credit card accounts when they have other readily available cash or liquid assets more than adequately covering their needs
  • Children or caretakers being intimately involved in the elder persons financial decisions who the elderly person would not normally rely upon for financial advice or assistance
  • Financial statements no longer being delivered to the elderly persons home or residence
  • Personal belongings, jewelry and other valuable items missing
  • Elderly persons who don’t normally complain about money suddenly complaining about not having enough money to do the things they want to do
  • Caretakers or children taking control of conversations with the elderly person or the elderly person being in fear of speaking in front of that person without looking to them for assurance or permission first
  • A new, much younger love interest or best friend comes into their life
  • Large purchases which the elderly person wouldn’t normally purchase or has no need for such as an elderly male widower purchasing expensive women’s jewelry and clothing

While this list is not all-inclusive, and each case of financial exploitation against an elderly person could involve one, or many of these indicators, knowing what to look for can help prevent an elderly person from becoming another victim. If you suspect an elderly person is being financially abused or exploited you can contact the proper local authorities or call Florida’s 24-hour elder abuse hotline at 1-800-96-ELDER (1-800-963-5337) who will determine whether to investigate.

Unfortunately however, as indicated on my elderly exploitation page, experience has shown that many of the local law enforcement agencies may not take an active interest in these cases due to the involvement of family members or a number of other reasons. If you have questions about financial exploitation of the elderly in South Florida, what actions can be taken to prevent further abuse or to recover money improperly taken from an elderly person, contact a Florida probate litigation attorney, an attorney experienced in handling cases of financial exploitation of the elderly today. The initial consultation is always free.


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