Financial Abuse: Minding Your $ and ¢

Financial elder abuse is a growing concern here in Arizona and nationally.  It is estimated that at least five million seniors fall victim to financial elder abuse each year.

Financial elder abuse is the illegal or improper use of a vulnerable adult or his/her financial resources for another’s profit or advantage. It includes deception, trickery, false pretense, or dishonest acts or statements for financial gain. Some examples include:

  • Taking money or property
  • Forging an older person’s signature
  • Getting an older person to sign a deed, will, or power of attorney through deception, coercion, or undue influence
  • Using the older person’s property or possessions without permission
  • Promising lifelong care in exchange for money or property and not following through on the promise
  • Utilizing fear tactics for financial gain
  • Home improvement scams
  • Email scams
  • Telemarketing scams

Need some real-life examples? A client’s grandson stole checks from the back of her checkbook hoping she wouldn’t notice. Another client’s daughter brought documents to the hospital for her to sign when she was recovering from a fall. She told my client is was “routine” paperwork, when in fact it changed my client’s trust to have only that daughter as her beneficiary (and disinheriting her other children.) And you may have heard from friends who have been getting calls from “the IRS” stating the IRS will issue an arrest warrant if they do not call and immediately pay their back taxes by credit card. (The latter happened to me! Please note, the IRS does NOT make phone calls.)

Many of our loved ones are taken advantage of by family members, close friends, neighbors, or unknown strangers. I would classify all these as predators: a person who ruthlessly exploits others. Anyone is at risk. But the following conditions or factors increase the likelihood that abuse may occur:

  • Isolation
  • Loneliness
  • Recent loss
  • Physical or mental disabilities
  • Lack of familiarity with financial matters
  • Having family members who are unemployed and/or have substance abuse problems

There are numerous resources to help you and your family identify financial or any other type of elder abuse such as AARP, the National Institute of Justice, National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, and your state’s Attorney General. At AARP.org you can even sign up for free scam watchdog alerts.

If you believe someone is being financially exploited, report it!  You can contact the Arizona Attorney General’s TASA helpline at (844) 894-4735 or (602) 542-2124 or AARPs Fraud Watch Helpline at 877-908-3360.

We all need to be diligent in ensuring our loved ones are not being taken advantage of.