Articles Posted in Financial Abuse

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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senior lunch 2.jpgThousands of elders become victims of financial abuse each year. Studies have sought to determine why so many elders fall prey to financial scams, and by and large, it is the vulnerability of elders that puts them at greatest risk for being victimized. Whether that abuse is initiated via phone scams, where thieves claim to be from the IRS, or via people who are trying to scam elders via a trust mill, there are a lot of people seeking to take advantage of elders in California.

Senior seminars, which advertise a free lunch, are yet another common scam used for financial predators to target potential victims. The scam works like this:

*There is a “Senior Seminar” advertised/offered which provides a free lunch.

*Questionnaires are distributed so that the predators can identify the most vulnerable victims.

*The purpose of the seminar is to identify victims and gather financial information, for the next “step” in the seminar, which is generally a sales presentation.

*Sometimes the scam ends once the predator collects information to hone in on liquid assets, such as checking accounts, IRAs, or mutual funds.

*In other cases, criminals use the financial information they have collected to coerce elders that there is a need for them to move their assets from one place to another. That is, they create an urgency that the elder should move a savings account into a trust, immediately.

*Fees begin to accumulate as the predator charges a “consulting fee” or “retirement planning fee.”

*Financial predator convinces the elder to buy products such as annuities, so that the predator can collect a commission.

It is highly advisable to take a friend or family member with you when you are attending any type of “Senior Seminar.” Furthermore, there is no reason at all why you should offer anyone at the seminar any of your personal information, including account numbers, bank balances, or social security numbers. These seminars are used as a clearinghouse for collecting information, either for outright theft or for selling financial products that the elders neither need, nor understand.
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There are plenty of opportunists (read: criminals) looking for ways to obtain the sensitive, personal information of seniors. From digging through trash, to stealing from mailboxes, identity theft is alive and well in 2015. Many criminals specifically seek out the information of California seniors, who may be more vulnerable to having their identity stolen.

While there is no foolproof way to guarantee that your private information (date of birth, bank account numbers, social security number, etc.) won’t fall into the hands of someone with bad intentions, there are things you can do to reduce the likelihood that you or an elder you love will fall prey to identity theft.

1. Shred Everything
All homes should have a paper shredder. Any documents mailbox 2.jpg with identifying information should be shredded after they are no longer needed. This includes bank statements, loan statements, mortgage statements, credit card bills, health/medical records, and any other documents which provide personal identifiers.

2. Consider Renting A Post Office Box Unsecured mail is targeted by identity thieves frequently. Mailboxes which are unattended and unlocked can provide a treasure trove of identifying information for thieves. Similarly, outgoing mail should never sit in an unsecured mailbox. If you or a loved elder has an unsecured mailbox, it is worth considering renting a Post Office box, and sending all mail out from the post office.

3. Request To Pick Up New Checks At The Bank New sets of checks are easily identifiable, and thieves would love to get their hands on them. If you do not have a secured mailed box or post office box, check with your bank about picking up your checks directly from the bank, rather than leaving them to chance in your mailbox.

In California, financial elder abuse is defined in Welfare and Institutions Code §15610.30. The code states: “Financial abuse of an elder or dependent adult occurs when a person or entity… takes, secrets, appropriates, obtains, or retains [or assists in doing any of these] real or personal property of an elder or dependent adult for a wrongful purpose or with intent to defraud or both.”

Far too many elders in California become the victims of financial abuse each year. In order to prevent your loved elder from facing a headache of credit and legal problems, do your best to ensure that all of their identifying paperwork is secure in the mail, and that all documents with sensitive information are promptly shredded.

If you suspect, or confirm, that your loved elder is the victim of financial abuse in California there are certain steps you can take. You may 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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