Broken Trust: Responding to Elder Financial Abuse

Posted on

Oct 27, 2015

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Its been three years since Dotties husband passed away. She took good care of him right up to the end. Thats what people do when theyve been married as long as Dottie and her husband. Shes on her own now and lonely. Bill always paid the bills and oversaw their retirement investments. Now, its up to her to keep track of everything.

Dottie is at risk of being exploited and she probably already knows the individuals who may take advantage of her. The annual financial loss by elder financial abuse is estimated to be $2.6 billion annually. An individual doesnt have to have a large net worth to be a target.

Here is who exploiters look for:

Homeowners.they are home alone leaving them exposed to scam artists
Lonely.sales and scam solicitations can fill a need for socially isolated seniors
Diminished reasoning and memory issues make older adults more vulnerable
Predictable patterns of payments (pensions, social security, investment income) make elders more at risk for financial abuse

The perpetrators are not strangers, they are people seniors trust. The top three categories of perpetrators account for 46% of all reported elder financial abuse;

* Trusted Professional 18%

* Family Member 17%

* Non-agency caregiver 11%

People who take advantage of seniors are friendly and persuasive. They may start with small amounts of money and take more as time passes, if no one intervenes. They often rationalize their behavior by claiming the senior wants them to have the money/asset, doesnt need it anyway, or that the senior will never miss it.

Here are the ways seniors and their families can guard against financial abuse:

Have a reliable power of attorney, favor family members who do not live with the senior
Keep belongings neat; and list valuables (collectables, jewelry) in the household
Report instances of financial abuse to police and bank Compliance Department
Use an agency with an insured and bonded agency model that has employees as workers, not private individuals who have no accountability to a formal employer
Encourage direct deposits of checks
Have a safe and secure place where important documents are kept, such as POAs, Wills

Seniors should talk to their family and make arrangements before severe illness or disability happens. Unfortunately, many cases of financial abuse are not discovered until a senior has passed away and the family discovers money or valuables missing from the seniors home or bank. This is a difficult financial and emotional situation that can be avoided.

Editor's Note: This article was submitted by Bobbie Mecalo, CAPM, BSBA., co-owner of Abby Senior Care, Inc. Bobbiemay be reached at 303-699-8840 or by email

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