Whereas most people are aware of the problem of child abuse or domestic violence, there is less public awareness of elder abuse, particularly financial abuse of the elderly. Public awareness of elder abuse is about 20 years behind those other forms of abuse, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse.
Elder abuse can take many forms, including neglect and abandonment, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse. In this article, we discuss financial abuse and how it affects the vulnerable elderly population.
What is financial abuse of the elderly?
Unfortunately, there are many types of financial abuse affecting the elderly. According to the AARP, identity theft and investment scams are common types of exploitation, along with fake lotteries, forged checks, stolen valuables, and misuse of credit cards.
The elderly may not be as internet-savvy as younger people, and may be more vulnerable to scams involving fraudulent emails and text messages. They may be more trusting than other members of the population, and may have difficulty grasping how identity theft works.
A common financial scam is to telephone an elderly person, pretending to be calling on behalf of a relative who is traveling and has run into a desperate financial or medical emergency. The con artist instructs the elderly person to wire money to him to help the relative.
Elderly people have to rely on others to do repairs for them. There are reports every day of unscrupulous people who rip off the elderly on home repairs. People who come inside the home to provide services might steal the elderly person’s valuables, for example. The theft of valuables is also a problem when the elderly person lives in a nursing home with little privacy from staff and other residents.
If the elderly person has mobility issues, they might have to rely on others to run errands. This might require they let the other person have access to their checks or credit cards. Some unethical people will forge the elderly person’s checks or will use their credit cards to make unauthorized purchases.
Who financially abuses the elderly?
According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, the people who most commonly financially exploit the elderly are family, friends, neighbors, and home health care aides. Staff and other residents in long-term care facilities may also exploit vulnerable residents.
Who loses when there is financial abuse of the elderly?
We all lose. The elderly person obviously suffers financial loss and betrayal. But financial exploitation of the elderly also causes massive financial loss for families and to government programs, as exploitation of the elderly may result in greater reliance on family members or federal programs.
What can be done about it?
When the elderly are victims of financial abuse, they might be embarrassed to admit they were exploited, or be afraid to take action. The best way to stop the abuse, however, is to report it and take the appropriate steps to resolve the problem. This can involve contacting the police if you suspect a crime occurred and filing a complaint or reporting the abuse to the appropriate government agencies.
Those are good first steps. You may also contact an attorney to take legal action and hold the appropriate party liable. The perpetrator may be liable, but so too might the perpetrator’s employer, like a nursing home.