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."
Although financial abuse is far too prevalent, the best defense against opportunists who would seek to defraud elders out of their money, property or belongings, is preventing the abuse in the first place. Although there is no surefire way to ensure that your loved one's finances are protected at all times, there are warning signs to look for, which can indicate that financial abuse is taking place.
In an effort to best protect a loved elder from financial abuse including a loss of their property, assets or money, be on the lookout for these warning signs that a caregiver, a family member or even a staff member at a California nursing home is victimizing elders:
*Missing items (jewelry, appliances)
*Unpaid or past due bills
*Excessive credit card charges
*Unusual bank activity (large withdrawals or checks)
*New credit cards opened in the elder's name
*Changes to trusts, estates, wills
*Unusual investments in ventures, real estate, businesses
*Bulk sales of stocks
*Unusual charitable contributions or gifts to unknown people/organizations
*Large purchases (property, cars, electronics)
One of the best means of ascertaining that a loved one and their finances are safe is through frequent contact with the elder. Simply by calling and/or visiting them you can often pick up on cues as to their overall well-being. Volunteering to help them once or twice a month with their finances, including paying bills will also give you a good picture of their financial health at all times. Furthermore, take advantage of the opportunity to help your loved elder obtain their free annual credit report, and review it with them to make sure that all records are correct. Paying attention to the relationships your loved elder has with others will also help to illuminate any potential opportunists in their lives.
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.