Articles Posted in Financial Abuse

ISE_webbanner_768x180It is an unfortunate fact that elder abuse is a common and growing problem in San Diego and throughout the United States. Abuse of the elderly can take many forms, ranging from neglect and abandonment to physical, verbal, financial, and even sexual abuse. Fortunately, professionals in health care are constantly working towards new breakthroughs in treatment and the prevention of abuse in the elderly population. It’s true that new research and techniques are changing the face of convalescent care every day.

As the population of elders in San Diego continues to grow, it’s also encouraging to see the elder abuse epidemic be drawn out of the shadows and into the light, so we can all learn to recognize symptoms of elder abuse, and report any suspicions. One such example of shining a light on elder abuse prevention will be coming to Southern California next month.

On September 15, 2016 the 2-day USC Judith D. Tamkin International Symposium on Elder Abuse will welcome “researchers, academics, physicians, nurses, and psychologists” to participate in a weekend committed to “Closing the Research Gaps and Moving the Field of Elder Abuse Forward.”

locked-houseWhen considering types of elder abuse, neglect and abandonment often come to mind. It is an unpleasant fact however, that elder abuse can and does take many different forms. Financial abuse, for example, can often be just as devastating to a victim as neglect or even physical abuse is. When a person on a fixed income is taken advantage of financially, these victims typically have little to no means of recovering their assets. This is particularly true of elders in Southern California, who are often defenseless or unaware of potential threats— making them easy prey for scammers.

In a case that’s garnered a lot of media attention, two convicted felons were recently charged with holding an 84-year-old woman against her will along with stealing money from the woman and her husband. Here’s an overview of that story:

In August of 2015, 53-year-old Wayne Kim Golden, and his girlfriend, 52, made an agreement with the 84-year-old victim to house her 94-year-old husband with Alzheimer’s, who needed full time in-home care. At some point, Shillings showed up at the female victim’s home in Menifee where the victim still lived independently, and took her back to the residence in Perris where Shillings and Golden cared for her husband. Once at the home, Shilling confiscated the 84-year-old’s car keys and check book, and held her hostage in her home for two weeks.

scam-onphoneThe National Council on Aging (NCOA) has called financial abuse in elders “the crime of the century,” due to its prevalence in the senior community. In San Diego, as in the rest of the country, seniors are often directly targeted for financial scams—frequently through telemarketing schemes—that prey upon the weaknesses of the elderly.

There are various types of financial and telemarketing schemes that target the elderly, including:

  • Investment Schemes

According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA) “financial scams targeting seniors have become so prevalent that they’re now considered the crime of the 21st century.” There are all types of financial fraud including, investment schemes, lottery scams, funeral scams, and telemarketing fraud. Telemarketing fraudsters often try to sell low-cost vitamins, health care products, cheap vacations, and “free” prizes. Trying to scam an elderly person over the phone, gives the perpetrator the advantage of anonymity as well as the element of surprise.

Elder-on-phone-300x238-386x386.jpgAlthough anyone can be a victim of telemarketing fraud, the senior citizen community is especially vulnerable. What makes them susceptible and why are they being targeted?

• They may make poor witnesses – an elderly person may not remember the details of the conversation clearly.

• They are reluctant to report – often times crimes go completely unreported, due to embarrassment of the situation or because the victim isn’t aware of any resources to seek help.

• They have a retirement savings and great credit – a retiree usually has very little debt and a sizeable nest egg, making them prime candidates for financial elder abuse.

• They are polite and trusting – a senior may not want to appear rude to the caller, hesitating to hang up or say no, especially if the caller is adamant.

• They have hope – fraudsters feed on an elderly person’s desire to be healthy and stay young, offering anti-aging products or “miracle drugs.”

What can be done to avoid fraud?

• Never, ever send money to “pay the taxes” on a free prize. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, “if a caller tells you the payment is for taxes, he or she is violating federal law.”

• Avoid dealing with unfamiliar companies, and if you do, check with organizations like the Better Business Bureau.

• Never give out unsolicited personal information over the phone like social security numbers, credit card numbers, or bank account information.

• Be cautious when considering donations to charity. Many organizations are legitimate, but many are not. A little bit of research now could save a lot of trouble later.

• Be informed! Gather as much information as possible about the company or person you’re considering doing business with.

• Don’t be afraid to say, “No, thank you,” and hang up. It’s okay to tell the caller “No,” even if he/she doesn’t want to take no for an answer.

It’s important to be diligent and discerning when handling telemarketing calls; awareness of fraudulent activity is the best protection against it. Also, reporting potential fraud in a timely manner can minimize the damage and help prevent someone else from becoming a victim.
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senior-walletA recent study that appeared in the latest edition of the Public Policy & Aging Report (PP&AR)—a publication of the National Academy on an Aging Society—has concluded that major financial institutions, like banks and insurance companies, can do much more to help prevent senior financial abuse.

In its coverage of the new study, ConsumerAffairs.com reports that both the financial abuse of seniors, as well as cognitive decline in the elderly, cause a negative and serious impact on the economy. Inaction on the part of banks and insurance companies, the study concludes, poses a serious threat to the health of the U.S. financial sector. According to Editor-in-Chief of PP&AR Robert Hudson, the problems of senior financial abuse and age-related impairment are “assuming remarkably large personal, monetary, and social dimensions. Elder abuse involves millions of individuals and billions of dollars. It damages health, harms wellbeing, and arguably costs lives.”

A different set of findings, authored by The MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse, estimates the monetary loses that result from senior abuse—as documented in 2010 alone—could amount to a staggering figure of at least $2.9 billion dollars. “Ironically, the age group that has amassed the most wealth over the longest period of accumulation is simultaneously at the greatest risk of financial self-impoverishment and exploitation by others,” Daniel Marson of PP&AR commented.

According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA) “financial scams targeting seniors have become so prevalent that they’re now considered the crime of the 21st century.” There are all types of financial fraud including, investment schemes, lottery scams, funeral scams, and telemarketing fraud. Telemarketing fraudsters often try to sell low-cost vitamins, health care products, cheap vacations, and “free” prizes. Trying to scam an elderly person over the phone, gives the perpetrator the advantage of anonymity as well as the element of surprise.

Elder-on-phone-300x238-386x386Although anyone can be a victim of telemarketing fraud, the senior citizen community is especially vulnerable. What makes them susceptible and why are they being targeted?

• They may make poor witnesses – an elderly person may not remember the details of the conversation clearly.

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, 27% of the 1.5 million Baby Boomers who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender worry about discrimination as they age. Unfortunately, research from the National Center on Elder Abuse shows that LGBT elders do suffer from higher rates of abuse and neglect compared to their non-LGBT elderly peers.

In surveying nearly 500 lesbian, gay, or lesbian nursing home residents aged 60 years and older, the National Center on Elder Abuse determined, “prejudice and hostility encountered by LGBT elder persons in institutional care facilities create difficult environments” and may result in physical and verbal abuse from other residents and nursing home staff.
th-thumb-300x199-96247Statistical data from the study reveals that:

• 65% of respondents experienced victimization because of their sexual orientation, including verbal abuse, threats of violence, physical and sexual assault, and threats of their orientation being disclosed to others.

• 29% of respondents had been physically assaulted, with men three times more likely to be the victim of a physical assault.

These verbal, sexual, physical, and discriminatory attacks often cause elderly victims to experience significant declines in mental health and quality of life. The study also revealed caregivers of the elderly might not be accepting of their charge’s sexual orientation and then respond with abusive behavior.

Based on a survey of 3,500 LGBT elders 55 and older, the National Center on Elder Abuse discovered that:

• 8.3% of LGBT elders were abused or purposefully neglected because of homophobia by caregivers.

• 8.9% of LGBT elders were threatened with or experienced blackmail or financial exploitation as a result of homophobia by caregivers.

• Sometimes nursing home staff goes so far as to deny visitors for an elderly LGBT resident, or bar partners from sharing a room and/or participating in medical decision making.

The National Academy on an Aging Society reports, “many LGBT older adults are at high risk for elder abuse, neglect, and various forms of exploitation because [they are] living in isolation and fear of the discrimination they could encounter in aging setting.”

If you reside in the San Diego or surrounding Southern California area and suspect that your loved one is suffering from abuse, discrimination, or other negative treatment by nursing home staff or fellow residents, take action. You may consider contacting an Ombudsman or the Department of Public Health.
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Counting Money.jpgAccording to a recent article by Wells Fargo Advisors, “Older Americans are losing about $2.9 billion every year to people who take advantage of their vulnerabilities – and that’s only for the cases that are actually reported…it’s occurring more frequently every year.” Additionally, it is reported that 34% of the perpetrators are family, friends, and neighbors of the elderly person.

That’s a scary statistic, and it’s our responsibility to try to protect our elderly parents and grandparents from becoming victims of financial elder abuse. The abuse often times starts out small, infrequent, and can happen over a long period of time. The culprit is attempting to go under the radar. Other times, the abuse is out of the blue, quick, wiping the victim’s account clean. Both methods are devastating.

Does that mean we should suspect all friends and family? Not necessarily, but there are some warning signs to be on the look out for:

• Your loved one’s caregiver or friend is taking a special interest in their financial paperwork, including accessing bank statements, insurance policies, and passwords.
• Increased account activity like large or unusual cash withdrawals, transfers, or loans.
• Changes in trusts, wills, or fiduciary accounts, including transferring title or assets to another person.
• Your loved one’s sudden increase, or decrease, in desire to spend time with family and friends.
• A reluctance to talk about finances at all or a fear regarding his/her finances.
• The elderly person starts having valuable personal items come up “missing”.
• Negative changes in your loved one’s behavior, mood, appearance, or mental and/or physical ability.

Many people are able to manage their finances themselves without outside help from a fiduciary or another person acting on their behalf. Sometimes appointing a fiduciary is necessary when a person becomes unable to financially take care of him/herself. The fiduciary can be anyone from a trusted family member or friend to a neutral, knowledgeable party like an attorney or other expert.
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A new report, released by True Link Financial, a financial services firm based in San Francisco has revealed that seniors lose $36.48 Billion each year due to financial elder abuse.

According to the report:

“The fraud research community has long suspected that lossmoney 3.jpges due to elder financial abuse were worse than the $2.9 billion previously estimated. True Link’s data science team, looking for clarity and an accurate assessment of the problem, decided to tackle this question head-on.

The results of this research, The True Link Report on Elder Financial Abuse 2015, reveals that seniors lose $36.48 billion each year to elder financial abuse – more than twelve times what was previously reported. What’s more, the highest proportion of these losses–to the tune of $16.99 billion a year–comes from deceptive, but technically legal, tactics designed to specifically take advantage of older Americans.”

This eye-opening report also provided key findings including:

• Small losses are evidence of an underlying vulnerability: A senior who lost as little as $20 in a year to exploitation could be expected to lose $2,000 a year to other types of fraud.

• A person who receives just one telemarketing phone call per day is likely to experience three times as much financial loss as someone who receives no or only occasional telemarketing calls.

• It is estimated that 954,000 seniors are currently skipping meals as a result of financial abuse.

Moreover, the report broke down the abuse into categories and found that:

$16.99 billion is lost annually to financial exploitation, defined as when misleading or confusing language is used–often combined with social pressure and strategies that take advantage of cognitive decline and memory loss–to obtain a senior’s consent to take his or her money.

$12.76 billion is lost annually through criminal fraud, which included explicitly illegal activity, such as the grandparent scam, the Nigerian prince scam, or identity theft.

$6.67 billion is lost annually to caregiver fraud, defined as deceit or theft enabled by a trusting relationship–typically a family member but sometimes a paid helper, friend, lawyer, accountant, or financial manager.

Click here to read the entire report, or click here to read the Executive Summary of True Link Financial’s 2015 Elder Financial Abuse.

Financial abuse of an elder is a crime in California. If you believe an elder you know has been victim of financial abuse, report any suspicion of abuse to the National Elder Abuse Hotline at 1-800-677-1116. In California, reports can also be made to the local county Adult Protective Services Agency or to local law enforcement.
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Financial abuse of elders is an unfortunate reality. In fact, elders are often specifically targeted by criminals looking to commit fraud and identity theft. There are many ways to prevent fraud and identity theft. It is important for elders, or their loved ones, to monitor their credit, and regularly review account statements to try to prevent or stop financial abuse.

All Californians are entitled to one free credit report per year credit-report-info.jpg from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. To get your free annual credit report visit www.annualcreditreport.com. This federal government approved website will enable you to pull your credit, or the credit of a loved senior, and receive a full report once each year.

While one free credit search is made available each year, elders would be smart to check their credit 2 or 3 times per year. Credit reports typically cost less than $20, and provide invaluable peace of mind by confirming that unauthorized accounts have not been opened, nor have illegitimate items been charged.

In addition to obtaining regular credit reports, it’s a good idea to have duplicate copies of monthly account statements sent not only to the elder, but to their trusted Financial Advisor, attorney, CPA, or a trusted family member. This will provide additional confirmation that all charges appear accurate, nobody has acquired the account number, and it is not being used without the consent of the elder.

Warning signs of fraud on bank statements may include:

*Withdrawals from outside of the elder’s primary area residence;
*Repeated withdrawals, particularly if the elder spends most of their time at home; and
*Checks written to unusual or unfamiliar people, organizations, or stores.

Keeping an eye on credit is important for Californians of all ages. However, it is especially important to monitor credit statements and account balances for elders who may have declining mental capacities, or medical conditions such as dementia that put them at greater risk for becoming a victim of financial elder abuse.

If you suspect, or confirm that your loved elder is the victim of financial abuse in California there are certain steps you should take. You may report any suspicion of abuse to the National Elder Abuse Hotline at 1-800-677-1116. In California, reports can be made to the local county Adult Protective Services Agency or to local law enforcement.
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