Recently in Financial Abuse Category

Be Aware: Fake IRS Phone Scam Still Targeting Elders

July 28, 2014

Opportunists continue to seek occasions to defraud elders out of money, and one of the many ways they continue to try to do it is through phone scams. In fact, according to the National Consumers League nearly 1/3 of phone fraud victims are over the age of 60. In recent months one of the newest scams involves a caller claiming to be from the IRS.

The scam works like this:

A caller impersonating an IRS employee will call and notify the resident that they owe a substantial amount of money in back taxes. They often then threaten the victim with an arrest warrant, or seizure of property if they do not pay the taxes immediately, via a pre-paid debit card, bringing a check to a particular location, wiring the money, or paying through PayPal. They often state from the start that the "debt" cannot be paid with a credit card.

This scam is not new, but it has defrauded victims out of more than $1,000,000 to date. The IRS and the Federal Trade Commission are both aware of the scam, and want you to keep the following in mind, if you get a call from anyone claiming to be from the IRS:

*The IRS will almost always contact you by mail, not by phone.
*The IRS will never threaten you with seizing your property or issuing an arrest warrant.
*The IRS will never demand immediate payment over the phone, nor will they insist that you pay using some specific, or peculiar method.

If a caller claiming to be from the IRS has scammed you, you should file a complaint with the Treasury Inspector General for Taxpayer Administration (800-366-4484) and with the Federal Trade Commission at www.FTC.gov. Include the words "IRS Telephone Scam" in your complaint.

There are plenty of people who make a living at the expense of others, and you definitely don't want to become a victim. If you would prefer to be removed from all phone sales lists, you can request to be put on the "Do Not Call" list, by registering at www.donotcall.gov.

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New Report Shows That Phone Scams Targeting The Elderly Are On The Rise

February 26, 2014

Fraud.org (a division of the National Consumer League) recently released a 2013 report which shows that phone scams had increased by 25% over the last year. Moreover, the National Consumers League reports that nearly 1/3 of phone fraud victims are over the age of 60.

Highlights from the report available on Fraud.org include:

"New trend: Fraudulent telemarketers a top concern
For years, the most frequent way that consumers reported coming into contact with scammers was via websites or email. In 2013, however, the most frequent way that scammers approached consumers was over the telephone. More than 36% of complaints to Fraud.org indicated that the phone was the initial method of contact, up from just over a quarter of complaints in 2012.

Fraud on the rise: Refund and recovery scams
Losing money to a scammer is bad enough. Unfortunately, consumers who fall victim to con artists often find their way on to lead lists that scammers buy, sell and trade amongst themselves. Scammers using the "refund and recovery" fraud will pitch victims through phone calls and direct mail claiming that can recover their lost money. The catch is that the victims need to pay a fee to "recover" the losses. In fact, the pitch is just another scam designed to get even more money from victims. In 2013, this scam was the fastest-growing type of non-Internet scam reported to NCL's Fraud.org campaign.

Top scams continue to thrive: Fake Check Fraud, Bogus Internet Merchandise and Sweepstakes Scams
Nearly three quarters of all complaints to Fraud.org in 2013 fell into just three categories - Fake Check Scams (24.23%), Internet Merchandise Scams (23.04%) and Fake Prizes/Sweepstakes (22.76%). Fake check scams remained the top complaint in 2013, but scammers appear to be increasingly relying on bogus Internet merchandise and bogus sweepstakes (such as the infamous Jamaican lottery scam) to defraud consumers."

There are plenty of people who make a living at the expense of others, and you definitely don't want to become a victim. If you would prefer to be removed from all phone sales lists, you can request to be put on the "Do Not Call" list, by registering at www.donotcall.gov. Additionally, the National Consumers League offers this tip sheet which provides excellent information on ways elders can avoid becoming a victim.


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Southern California Insurance Agent Faces Financial Elder Abuse Charges

December 31, 2013

Financial abuse of the elderly can come from the most unlikely of perpetrators, and last month's arrest of a former insurance agent is just the most recent example. In the lawsuit, Myles Seishin Hanashiro has been charged with four felony counts of elder abuse, for forging his own aunt's signature on an insurance policy he sold her.

According to the Los Angeles Times: "Acting as a licensed life insurance agent in 2005, Hanashiro sold a $100,000 life annuity policy to his 78-year-old aunt. In April 2009, his aunt received a letter from her insurance company notifying her that the address associated with her policy had been changed to the same mailing address as Hanashiro's..."

"...Hanashiro allegedly submitted four withdrawal requests to the life insurance company by forging his aunt's signature and all four checks were mailed to Hanashiro's home address. He then forged his aunt's signature and cashed two checks and deposited the other two checks into his personal account. Hanashiro's aunt lost more than $110,000 from her life annuity policy..."

"...If convicted on all charges, Hanashiro faces up to four years in state prison, fines and financial restitution. Hanashiro is being held on a $200,000 bail. His license to sell insurance expired in 2009."

This is just another example of how elders are often targeted as victims by those who are supposed to be helping them, and unfortunately that often includes family members. Financial abuse of elders occurs in many forms. It is a civil and often a criminal offense. Christopher C. Walton is a San Diego based elder abuse attorney whose practice is dedicated to issues involving elder abuse & neglect. If you believe you or somebody you know has been a victim of elder abuse, please call (619) 233-0011 for a free and confidential consultation.

Tips For Keeping Your Identity Safe From Theft During The Holidays

December 24, 2013

Identity theft typically spikes during the holiday season, and as such, it's worth reiterating the fact that elders may be at an increased risk of becoming victims of identity theft. In fact, according to information provided by the FTC, "Senior citizens are particularly vulnerable to this crime because their personal information may be easily accessible by numerous individuals."

Fortunately, The Hanover Insurance Group has provided terrific tips for keeping your identity safe over the holidays. We've selected just a few, but the entire article can be viewed on the Wall Street Journal online, by clicking here.

• Don't carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write it on your checks.

• Don't leave your credit card visible for extended time. ID thieves can quickly write down your card number, or may even try to take pictures of it with their mobile devices.

• Watch out for "shoulder surfers." Use your free hand to shield the keypad when using checkout key pads and ATMs.

• Keep a paper trail. Save records of your online transactions. Read your credit card statements as soon as you get them and, if there is a discrepancy, report it immediately.

Financial abuse of the elderly is a crime. If you believe that you or a loved one has been a victim of identity theft while in the care of a California nursing home, please be sure to contact law enforcement and Adult Protective Services.


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San Diego's District Attorney Warns of "Grandma Scam"

December 10, 2013

The San Diego County District Attorney's office has set up an entire site devoted to elder abuse prevention and awareness. The "Safe Seniors" website provides valuable tips for preventing elder abuse, contact information of all agencies you may contact if you suspect elder abuse is occurring in any form at all, and other helpful information. In particular, they have highlighted a problem which has come to light in San Diego recently that the DA's office refers to as the "Grandma Scam."

According the San Diego County District Attorney's website, the "Grandma Scam" involves: "Imposters, often from foreign countries, target the elderly by posing as a grandchild in trouble and in need of cash. The caller often says that he or she has been arrested, was in a car accident or has some type of medical emergency. The caller always insists that the grandparent not tell anyone about the money transfer, which is one of the red flags. The scam is often effective because it catches seniors off guard and tugs at their heartstrings..."

"...Fight back by ensuring that your friends and family members do not become victims. Explain to them how the scam works, and encourage them to be suspicious of anyone who calls unexpectedly and wants them to wire money - especially to Mexico and Canada." Keep in mind that financial abuse is a crime, and California is taking measures to deter would-be thieves from preying on the elderly. In fact, new laws have just passed to reinforce the fact that stealing from the elderly is a serious offense.

SB 543 was written and sponsored by the San Diego District Attorney's office in order to make sure that stealing from an elder constitutes a "qualifying prior offense." This means when sentencing a guilty party for conviction of theft from an elder, it may be considered a prior offense. Currently, three convictions of theft may lead future petty theft charges to be bumped to a felony. This is victory for elders as it helps to reinforce the fact that stealing from elders are viewed on par with other types of theft.


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Governor Brown Signs Two New Bills to Protect Elderly

November 26, 2013

Good news in the fight to protect our elderly comes as the result of Governor Brown signing SB 543 and AB 140 into law last month. Our very own San Diego County District Attorney, Bonnie Dumanis along with San Diego Senators Joel Anderson and Marty Block, and Carlsbad Senator Mark Wyland had encouraged the governor to sign these bills, in order to modernize laws protecting elders.

SB 543 was written and sponsored by the San Diego District Attorney's office in order to make sure that stealing from an elder constitutes a "qualifying prior offense." This means when sentencing a guilty party for conviction of theft from an elder, it may be considered a prior offense. Currently, three convictions of theft may lead future petty theft charges to be bumped to a felony. This is victory for elders as it helps to reinforce the fact that stealing from elders are viewed on par with other types of theft.

AB 140 actually changes the definition of California's undue influence statute. The previous definition (in place since 1872) did not specifically address the effect of undue influence on the elderly. The new law will better protect elders as it gives the court broader reach in taking into consideration things such as, the vulnerability of the elder victim, the apparent authority of the influencer, the use of manipulation, and more.

Both laws should be considered a step forward in the march to protect some of our nation's most vulnerable population. Hopefully these new laws will serve as further deterrent to those who would wish to take advantage of the elderly population.

Elder abuse in California is both a criminal and civil offense. Criminal elder abuse describes the willful infliction of physical or emotional suffering on an elder. Civil elder abuse includes any physical or financial abuse, neglect or abandonment resulting in physical or mental harm.

If you suspect that a friend, family member, or loved one has been the victim of elder abuse, contact an experienced San Diego, California elder abuse lawyer to help evaluate your case and advise you how to proceed. Christopher Walton has years of experience providing caring, compassionate representation to victims of elder abuse and their families. Call (619) 233-0011 for a confidential consultation.

Elder Abuse Does Not Discriminate: Even Celebrities Become Victims

November 21, 2013

Elder abuse is an epidemic affecting elders of all ethnicities, socioeconomic groups and genders. Any elder, but particularly those suffering from diminished mental acuity, or declining physical wellness can become a victim of opportunistic law breakers. Evidence of how widespread elder abuse has become, recently came to light once again with the announcement that Mickey Rooney's attorneys had finally reached a settlement with Rooney's stepson, who was charged with financially abusing his famous and wealthy stepfather.

Indeed, more than two years after Rooney, then 90 years old, spoke to a special Senate Committer about being a victim of financial elder abuse, the case against his stepson has been settled for $2.8 Million. His stepson admitted to "siphoning" money from his famous father.

Unfortunately, since the settlement has been reached, his stepson has filed bankruptcy, so recovering the money for Rooney may still prove a challenge. However, by using his celebrity to illuminate the fact that any elder can become victim of elder abuse, Rooney has done a great service to working towards the prevention of elder abuse.

California elder abuse attorneys are increasingly being called upon to litigate claims relating to financial elder abuse. Financial elder abuse law in California has changed significantly over the past several years. The law has changed over time to broaden the definition of financial elder abuse and to strengthen the legal system's position against those who set out to take advantage of the elderly.

If you know or suspect someone is the victim of financial elder abuse, an experienced California elder abuse attorney can help. Financial abuse victims can be entitled to various compensatory damages under California law, including attorney's fees and costs. Christopher Walton is dedicated to defending the rights of elder abuse victims and ensuring they receive the compensation they deserve. Call (619) 233-0011 for a confidential consultation.

Elders & Identity Theft: Ways to Protect Yourself or Your Loved Ones

October 21, 2013

Identity theft continues to arise as a harsh reality for millions of Americans each year. In fact, according to the Justice Department, more than 11 million Americans fall victim to some form of identity theft/fraud each year. That accounts for more than $20 billion in lost money, with the average injury to victims at more than $4,000.

Elders may be at an increased risk of becoming victims of identity theft because according to information provided by the FTC, "Senior citizens are particularly vulnerable to this crime because their personal information may be easily accessible by numerous individuals."

Unfortunately for elders, particularly those in nursing homes, this does ring true. Personal and sensitive information may be attained by those with bad intentions. Therefore, it is important that elders and their loved ones keep a close eye on personal information, including social security numbers, driver's licenses and credit cards. These identifying numbers and accounts can be accessed easily, and drain an elder of savings in some cases. In others debt in an elder's name may be accrued.

In order to protect yourself or an elderly person you love from becoming a victim of identity theft, keep these tips in mind:
• Collect mail quickly, so that it cannot be stolen from a mailbox.
• Shred all documentation with personal identifying information including credit card account numbers, bank account numbers, documents which list a social security number, documents which list a driver's license number.
• Refuse to give out your social security number to anyone you are unfamiliar with. Never give your social security number to any telemarketer.
• Do not give account numbers (bank, credit card, etc.) to anyone over the phone unless you have initiated the phone call.

If you believe that you or a loved one has been a victim of identity theft while in the care of a California nursing home, please be sure to reach out to the authorities and Adult Protective Services. You might also consider contacting an attorney who specializes in elder abuse cases.

Financial abuse of elders occurs in many forms. It is a civil and often criminal offense. Christopher C. Walton is a San Diego, California based elder abuse attorney whose practice is dedicated to issues involving elder abuse & neglect. If you believe you or somebody you know has been a victim of elder abuse, please call (619) 233-0011 for a free and confidential consultation with an elder abuse attorney.

Phone Fraud: Tips for Dealing with Telemarketers

October 13, 2013

Unfortunately, there are far too many opportunists in the world, and the one thing they all share in common is that they are looking for the simplest way to get what they want. As a result, many con-artists specifically target the elderly, knowing that they are often some of the most vulnerable members of society. One way that elders are subjected to financial abuse is through fraudulent phone sales.

It has been estimated that Americans are bilked out of tens of billions of dollars each year via phony phone scams. Of those who lose money due to fake sales over the phone, more than half are over the age of 50, according to AARP. In order to ensure that you, or a loved elder does not fall prey to phone scams, keep the following in mind:

*Do NOT give anyone your credit card information or other sensitive information (social security number, date of birth, or bank account numbers) over the phone.
*Do NOT agree to pay to claim any type of prize you may be told you won.
*Do NOT send any money as a wire transfer even if you are told that you will be paid back immediately.
*Do NOT agree to pay "taxes" on any money you've supposedly won.
*Be wary of anyone who says they can give you a loan, or sell you something at a great price, but only if you act immediately.
*Make sure you do ask for the caller's company, name, and website.
*Always request any offer in writing before agreeing to buy anything.
*Get a second opinion on something that seems too good to be true. (Run the offer by a friend, family member, or even an attorney, before agreeing to buy anything).
*Do NOT be afraid to ask to be removed from their calling list.

There are plenty of people who make a living at the expense of others, and you definitely don't want to become a victim. If you would prefer to be removed from all phone sales lists, you can request to be put on the "Do Not Call" list, by registering at www.donotcall.gov.

Financial abuse of elders occurs in many forms. It is a civil and often a criminal offense. Christopher C. Walton is a San Diego based elder abuse attorney whose practice is dedicated to issues involving elder abuse & neglect. If you believe you or somebody you know has been a victim of elder abuse, please call (619) 233-0011 for a free and confidential consultation.

New Study Shows Victims of Elder Abuse, Neglect More Likely To Be Hospitalized

September 29, 2013

Researchers at Rush University Medical Center have concluded that "Elder abuse is independently associated with increased mortality risk, especially for cardiovascular related mortality," according to Dr. XinQi Dong, geriatrician, and the study's lead author. The findings of the research were published in the April 8 issue of JAMA Internal Medicine.

These findings prove that elder abuse plays a role in increasing costs in health care. "Hospitalization is a significant contributor to the rapidly increasing cost in our health care system," said Dong. "Older adult victims may be put often in situations that could threaten their health and safety, which further increase their likelihood to be more frequently admitted into the hospital."

According to the report in JAMA Internal Magazine, "The study results indicate an unadjusted mean annual rate of hospitalization for those without elder abuse was 0.62 and for with reported elder abuse was 1.97 hospital admissions per year. After adjusting for socio-demographic, socioeconomic variables, medical co-morbidities, cognitive and physical function, as well as psychological and social well being, reported elder abuse had independent higher rates of hospitalization of a rate ratio of 2.00.

Researchers found that the psychological abuse rate ratio (2.22), financial exploitation (1.75), caregiver neglect (2.43), and two more types of elder abuse (2.59) were independently associated with increased rates of hospitalization. The mean age of those with reported elder abuse was 72.9 years. Those with reported elder abuse were more likely to be women (72 percent), black older adults (89 percent) and have lower levels of education and income."

"Elder abuse is a serious, common and under-recognized public health and human rights issue," said Dong. "Given the soaring cost of health care in this country, the results my help health care providers focus on clinical screening, prevention and intervention of elder abuse cases in order to devise targeted strategies to reduce unnecessary utilization of health services." said Dong.

Under California law, elder abuse can be both a criminal and civil offense. In the broadest sense, criminal elder abuse typically describes the intentional infliction of physical or emotional suffering on an elder and civil elder abuse typically involves any physical or financial abuse, neglect or abandonment resulting in physical or mental harm. However, there is typically cross-over and every situation must be examined closely by somebody with experience in the field.


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New Study Suggests Psychological Vulnerability Plays a Role in Financial Elder Abuse

July 10, 2013

Elder abuse is a broad term that includes physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, and financial abuse. Financial abuse of elders is on the rise according to the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging. Moreover, instances of financial abuse of the elderly are expected to increase as the number of seniors in our nation increases.
But why is financial abuse becoming more common? And why do elders seem more at risk for financial exploitation than other segments of the population? These were questions, that researchers at Wayne State University collaborating with the Illinois Institute of Technology wished to answer, and the result is a recent study entitled "Is Psychological Vulnerability Related to the Experience of Fraud in Older Adults?"

The study was published in a recent issue of Clinical Gerontologist, and was the first study to include prospective predictors of reported financial fraud victimization of older adults, and is the first to review financial exploitation of any kind with the same population from a psychological-vulnerability perspective, according to a press release issued by Wayne State University.

Peter Lichtenberg, Ph.D., director of WSU's Institute of Gerontology and lead author of the paper said "Those in the clinical study showed characteristics of extreme depression symptoms and perceived low social-status fulfillment, thus showing they were more vulnerable to the experience of theft of scams."

The study included more than 4,000 participants. Those who were deemed the most psychologically vulnerable (highest levels of depression and lowest levels of social-needs fulfillment) experienced higher levels of fraud compared to those that were not vulnerable psychologically.

"One of the most significant findings of our study was with the most psychologically vulnerable population," said Lichtenberg. "The combination of high depression and low social-status fulfillment was associated with a 226 percent increase in fraud prevalence in this population. This supports our theory that depressive symptoms and lack of social-needs fulfillment have an effect on fraud prediction, and serves as a reminder to clinical gerontologists how psychological vulnerability can affect older adults' lives in a variety of ways."

California elder abuse attorneys are increasingly being called upon to litigate claims relating to financial elder abuse. Financial elder abuse law in California has changed significantly over the past several years. The law has changed over time to broaden the definition of financial elder abuse and to strengthen the legal system's position against those who set out to take advantage of the elderly.

If you know or suspect someone is the victim of financial elder abuse, an experienced California elder abuse attorney can help. Financial abuse victims are entitled to various compensatory damages under California law, including attorney's fees and costs. Christopher Walton has successfully handled numerous elder abuse cases in San Diego and throughout California, helping an underserved population halt the cycle of abuse. Mr. Walton is dedicated to defending the rights of elder abuse victims and ensuring they receive the compensation they deserve. Call (619) 233-0011 for a confidential consultation.

Financial Abuse & Elders: Common Scams

June 29, 2013

Financial abuse of the elderly is rampant, and often has devastating consequences for those who fall victim to financial fraud and scams. As our elders are often vulnerable to this type of abuse, it makes sense to learn about some of the more typical cons and scams that are targeted towards elders.

Bogus Long Term Care Medi-Cal Benefit

Applying for insurance is confusing enough as it is. But for elders, who may be trying to qualify for insurance for long term care in a California nursing home, the process can quickly go from being confusing to being abuse.

Unfortunately, individuals with bad intentions and greedy motivations capitalize on the fact that insurance is so confusing. One of the most common hustles involves selling elderly citizen various "services and products" supposedly designed to help the elder to pre-qualify for Medi-Cal. The prices are exorbitant, and in some cases individual seniors have been taken for up to $20,000. Tactics used to trick elders into paying for these services include false and misleading information and scare tactics.

If you or someone you love believes that someone is trying to sell you these types of unnecessary Medi-Cal products or services under the guise of helping you pre-qualify for assistance, refuse to sign anything before obtaining additional information.

Unsavory, Unethical "Trust Mills"

Elders solicited by people claiming to be Medi-Cal Specialists should be on alert. These individuals initially offer a free seminar for seniors on how they can protect their assets. However, upon attending these seminars, unnecessary estate planning services, preparation of wills, trusts and annuities are promoted, often using scare tactics. The sales pitch includes telling seniors that Medi-Cal may file an estate claim on their home or assets if they don't buy these products and services. Thousands of elders in California have fallen victim to this scam, and have even had their applications for long term Medi-Cal assistance negatively affected as a result of buying these products.

If you or a loved one is being solicited by these types of fake, fraudulent financial advisors, it is in your best interest to obtain additional information before buying any of these products. Christopher C. Walton is a San Diego, California based elder abuse attorney who specializes in advocacy for elders. Chris welcomes questions and provides free, confidential consultations. Contact Chris at (619) 233-0011 for a free and confidential consultation.

How to Recognize Financial Elder Abuse

January 4, 2013

In its simplest form, financial elder abuse involves taking money or property from an elderly person with the intent to defraud them. It is a growing problem in California given the state's increasing senior population. The signs of financial elder abuse can be difficult to see. The following is a list of some of the signs associated with financial elder abuse. Though the presence of any of the signs is not absolute evidence of abuse, it should prompt further investigation.

• Elder is withdrawn.
• Elder is confused and tends to be more forgetful than usual.
• Elder seems depressed or angry.
• Senior appears more secretive than usual.
• Others keep the senior away from family members.
• Caregiver does not give the elder an opportunity to speak freely.
• There is unusual activity in the older person's bank accounts including large, unexplained withdrawals, frequent transfers between accounts, or ATM withdrawals.
• Bank statements and other financial reports no longer come to the elder's home;
• Signatures on the elder's financial documents do not match the elder's signature.
• The elder's important financial documents, such as checks, are signed even though the elder's physical condition prevents writing.
• The senior lacks appropriate clothing or personal hygiene items.
• A stranger suddenly appears and offers the elder financial advice.
• There are unpaid bills, eviction notices, or notices to discontinue utilities.
• A caregiver who expresses unusual interest in the amount of money being spent on the older person.

Financial elder abuse can come in many forms including telemarketing fraud, predatory lending, and estate planning scams. Telemarketing fraud is the fraudulent sale of products and services over the phone. According to the American Association of Retired Persons, more than half of all of those targeted by telemarketers are over the age of 50. It may be difficult for the elder on the other end of the call to tell whether the call is a fraud, but everyone should be cautious about those calls that demand immediate payment for services not yet rendered. To avoid being duped by telemarketers, ask the caller for the name and address of their employer. Ask them to send you some written material. Whatever you do, DO NOT pay for anything over the phone. When in doubt, just hang up. The longer the conversation continues, the more easily the caller can convince the elder to give in and buy something.

Elders are also susceptible to the strong-arm tactics of predatory lenders who convince elders to take out high-interest loans. The elder is then unable to pay back the loan and can lose the collateral for loan, which is usually the elder's home. Lenders target elders who may be in financial straits and offer these loans as the solution to their problems. In reality, the fine print and boilerplate terms in the loan agreement almost always include hidden fees and balloon payments.

Estate planning schemes are other ways of taking advantage of the elderly. Suspicious estate planning documents, such as "Powers of attorney" can be devastating to a senior's financial life. A person who obtains power of attorney over the affairs of an elder has the ability to withdraw unlimited sums of money from the elder's bank account and can sign important financial documents on the elder's behalf. Powers of attorney can be beneficial when the person appointed as attorney is in fact acting in the best interest of the elder, but when they are fraudulently obtained, they can wreak havoc on the elder's finances.

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Tips to Recognizing and Preventing Financial Elder Abuse

September 20, 2012

It is estimated that nearly one in five Americans over age 65 become victims of financial elder abuse every year, costing them approximately $3 billion. Research also suggests that instances of financial elder abuse are severely underreported, with only about one in 25 cases actually making it to the authorities or news reporters. Several factors play a role in this underreporting, but often elders are too embarrassed to disclose when they have been victimized, while others lack the cognitive ability to recognize that the abuse is even taking place. Therefore, it is important for you to be able to recognize and prevent financial elder abuse of your loved ones.

A recently published article suggests 8 simple ways to prevent your loved one from being a victim of financial elder abuse.

1. Educate your loved ones. Talk to the seniors in your life regularly about potential problems and do not wait for them to reach out to you with concerns. Maintain a strong, trusting relationship and make sure to ease any potential embarrassment.

2. Go with an outsider. With nearly 80 percent of elder fraud cases attributed to close family members, it can be wise to choose a detached third-party to help manage your senior's financial holdings. A power-of-attorney (POA) gives a person legal authority to act on another person's behalf and is often a smart choice for handling a senior's finances. If your loved one chooses to assign a POA, make sure you are involved in the process and maintain strict limits on the types of transactions that may be accomplished. Assigning joint-POA's is also a good idea.

3. Register on the do-not-call list. Research suggests that women over 60 who live alone are extremely vulnerable targets for telemarketing scams. Although you cannot stop all calls, listing a phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry is a small protective step you and your loved one can take. Registration is free and easy. Also remember to remind your loved ones not to give out personal information over the phone.

4. Monitor investments. Visit the North American Securities Regulators Association before your loved one makes any investments or contacts a broker. A regulator from this website can verify that a chosen broker is properly licensed and can provide you with his or her important background information.

5. Don't fall for free lunches. Financial workshops offering "free lunches" to seniors are an ever-increasing way of luring seniors into a scam. It has been found that more than 10 percent of these events include fraudulent practices.

6. Monitor the mail. Assist your loved one in sifting through the mail and be on the lookout for bank or credit card statements bearing another's name or contact information. Be wary of unusual magazine subscriptions and always shred new credit card offers and bank statements.

7. Check credit reports. Ensure your senior is not a victim of identity theft or fraud by continuously monitoring their credit report. Free reports are available from the three major credit bureaus every 12 months.

8. Beware of isolation. Be a constant, loving presence in your loved one's life to prevent them from feeling lost, abandoned, or isolated. Those prone to take advantage of elders do so when the senior is most vulnerable. Involve your family and make sure that all maintain an active role in protecting your loved ones from financial elder abuse.

If you suspect a senior is being financially abused, report the situation to the proper authorities who can then make a decision about whether or not to investigate. In California, reports can be made to the local county Adult Protective Services Agency or to local law enforcement. Also, suspected elder abuse of any kind may reported to the National Center on Elder Abuse.

Continue reading "Tips to Recognizing and Preventing Financial Elder Abuse" »

California Law Addressing Financial Elder Abuse Continues to Evolve

August 14, 2012

California elder abuse attorneys are increasingly being called upon to litigate claims relating to financial elder abuse. Financial elder abuse law in California has changed significantly over the past several years. The law has changed over time to broaden the definition of financial elder abuse and to strengthen the legal system's position against those who set out to take advantage of the elderly.

One difficulty with financial elder abuse is that when most people hear the word "abuse" they immediately associate it with physical abuse. When there is no evidence that an elderly person is being physically abused, many people believe that the abuse is somehow less serious. That is far from the truth, and the fact is, financial elder abuse involves a violation of the senior's trust with the intent to cause harm. Such callous behavior should not be taken lightly.

Financial elder abuse is defined in Welfare and Institutions Code Section 15610.30. The code says: "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."

This newest version of the law is designed to give the elderly protection from abuse irrespective of the elder's mental capacity. Lawmakers in California correctly recognized that the elderly are vulnerable targets for those who wish to take advantage of them regardless of their capacity to understand the implications of their financial decisions.

The problem with financial elder abuse claims is that because the statute in its current form is relatively new, there is not much case law available to interpret the language of the law. The lawsuits that have been brought do not usually reach the appeals court and therefore are not widely reported. Even more problematic is the fact that many elders are not even aware that they have been financially harmed and thus never pursue a claim against the perpetrator.

The California legislature, however, is in the process of tackling one aspect of this problem. A new bill introduced in the house will allow for a right of attachment in financial elder abuse claims, which should work to incentive attorneys to take such cases. Currently, one of the problems with an attorney taking financial elder abuse cases is whether they will ever be able to collect from the criminals. Allowing for attachment would provide a more promising way to recover money and encourage efforts to recoup assets that have been taken from the elderly.

Continue reading "California Law Addressing Financial Elder Abuse Continues to Evolve" »