Preventing and Recognizing Financial Elder Abuse

Tax Professionals' Resource
December 3, 2013 — 1,548 views  
Become a Bronze Member for monthly eNewsletter, articles, and white papers.

Elder abuse has become quite common and widespread throughout the country. Over the last decade reports of abuse have increased by 150%. Elder people have become vulnerable to abuse because of isolation and various disabilities and dependencies. Being vulnerable due to such reasons, they make easy targets for physical abuse, mental abuse, neglect, fraud and financial exploitation. Elder citizens do not generally come forward to report such abuses and are even reluctant to admit it. This is generally because they feel ashamed, humiliated afraid and embarrassed. At times, these victims may also defend the abuser as it is more common than not that the abuser is a family member.

Financial Abuse

The most predominant type of elder abuse that comes to the notice of the law is financial exploitation. Victims of fraud and exploitation generally exhibit characteristics such as a need for interaction, compulsion so they can’t pass over a good deal, belief that they cannot be fooled, vulnerability, and being extremely naïve. It is very critical and compelling that all elder citizens need to be aware of how they can protect themselves against such exploitation. Family, friends and even employees of their financial institutions need to be able to recognize certain signs that prove they may be being exploited, how to ask questions to verify such abuse and how to answer queries about where to go for help from the law.

Types of Financial Abuse

Financial abuse is broadly categorized into two types. The first type is where the exploitation is by a person that the victim may know, such as family, a caregiver or an acquaintance. The second type is when the exploitation is by a stranger. These can be con artists, dishonest salesmen, fraudulent contractors or even people that represent a fake charity.

Recognizing a Financial Abuse Victim

Financial elder abuse victims do not generally report or admit their victimization due to various reasons. Recognizing certain signs can greatly help to bring justice for the abuse they receive. Statistics prove that a financially exploited victim is generally female; lives alone or with a relative; may suffer from some physical or psychological impairment that make them extremely dependent on others and they may even have suffered more than one type of abuse. Warning signs of financial exploitation are noticeable change in appearance, disorientation, change in mood, stopping eye contact, withdrawal, hesitating to have conversation, fear of the person accompanying them, and not being allowed to speak or make their own decisions.

Changes in banking activity can also be a pointing factor to financial abuse of elders. Examples of such activity are, numerous withdrawals that are new for the account holder, accompaniment by a stranger, out of sync check numbers, applying for new credit and debit cards suddenly, failure to understand recent transactions, changing account beneficiaries, changing property titles, and abrupt changes in a will or trust.

How Financial Institutions Can Help

Training employees to recognize and report suspicious activity taking place with an elder’s account can help a financial institution to recognize financial abuse. Developing protocol for reporting financial exploitation to the law makes the system foolproof. Customers need to be educated about their rights and how to recognize exploitation. A special employee can be designated who can take charge and be reported to, for such incidents. Timely intervention and financial counseling from a bank or financial institution can be very beneficial to prevent the abuse and financial exploitation of an elder.

Tax Professionals' Resource