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Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Clues Your Elderly Loved One Is Being Financially Abused

Millions of seniors get taken advantage of financially every year, bullied to hand over cash, and swindled out of their life savings. Tragically, in the vast majority of cases, the perpetrator is a relative, neighbor, friend, caretaker, or person in a position of trust. If you suspect that your elderly loved one is being financially abused, a California estate planning attorney can help you protect your loved one.

Signs of Financial Abuse

The AARP suggests that those who care about older adults should look out for these signs of elder financial abuse:

  1. A person living with the senior suddenly makes lifestyle changes, such as buying a car that is out of reach for his income or quitting his job. The individual might be exerting undue influence on the older adult to pay for the luxuries. Also, someone living in the home or frequently visiting might have access to the elderly person’s checkbook, credit cards, or bank statements, and might help himself at the expense of the older relative.
  2. The senior does not know what happened to her money when large sums go missing from her bank or brokerage accounts.
  3. Multiple or unnecessary home repairs can be the result of unethical contractors who scare older people into paying for the items.
  4. When a person who has little contact with society suddenly makes a new friend who spends a great deal of time with the senior, it could be someone who exploits lonely older adults.

Additional red flags include:

  • Stacks of unopened mail or collection notices could indicate that the senior is avoiding the bad financial news.
  • The loved one is uncharacteristically worried about money and stops doing things she used to enjoy, like eating at restaurants or going shopping, because of the expense.
  • The older adult begins to look “threadbare” or thin because she does not have the money to replace worn-out clothes or buy nutritious food.

Financial abuse of older adults can take many forms, including:

  • Theft. People steal the senior’s items, “borrow” things with no intention of returning them or purchase objects from the older person at pennies on the dollar.
  • Coercion. Some crooks get vulnerable seniors to hand over money or sign over assets to them by threatening violence, scaring them into believing that they will be homeless if the perpetrator gets in trouble, or withholding food, water, or medication from the elderly person.
  • Misuse of bank accounts and credit cards. If the older adult adds a trusted friend or relative’s name to an account, the financial abuser might take money or use the credit cards for personal use without permission.
  • Cognitive decline. Some people take advantage of an aging person’s confusion, forgetfulness, or cognitive decline to trick them into signing documents like the deed to their house, the title to their car, or a will that leaves everything to the con artist.

These are but a few examples of the many ways that people scam older adults out of their life savings. A California estate planning attorney can help you evaluate whether your aging loved one is a victim of financial abuse and help you set up legal protections.


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