Warning Signs of Elder Financial Abuse in Media, PA
There are frequent news stories about older adults who are scammed out of their savings or even their home by con artists or unscrupulous family members. The American Psychological Association reports that around four million older Americans are victims of psychological, physical, or other types of neglect and abuse. These are only reported cases. The APA says that there are likely as many as 23 that are undetected for every reported case.
Many people talk about emotional and physical abuse, but financial abuse is a significant concern and a growing problem. It’s crucial to protect your elderly relatives and look for warning signs. If you suspect elder abuse, you need to report it right away. Working with a certified Pennsylvania elder law attorney can also help reduce the risk of your loved ones suffering financial abuse.
Who Commonly Commits Financial Elder Abuse?
Most of the time, abusers have a close relationship with the victim. They create a false sense of security to convince the victim to trust them, making it easier for the con artist to access finances and assets. Abusers usually are:
-Friends or neighbors
-Professionals (financial advisors, bankers, etc.)
It is worth noting that the Pennsylvania Department of Aging consistently concludes that the most common type of elder abuse is self neglect. For example, in its 2017-2018 Older Adults Protective Services Annual Report the agency found that nearly 40 percent of substantiated allegations of abuse were cases of self neglect. Families should always think about self neglect in the context of elder financial abuse. It is often called a hidden hazard. A vulnerable person could easily run into problems because they lack the resources and support to care for their own financial well-being.
You Can Help Protect Your Vulnerable Loved One With Proper Diligence
You shouldn’t be completely paranoid, but don’t be too trusting either. Be wary and alert and watch for potential red flags and warning signs. Common signs of financial elder abuse include:
-Unusual credit card usage
-Missing money from accounts
-Additional authorized user added
-Possessions that have disappeared
-Unpaid bills, collection notices
Watch for sudden changes in your loved one’s mood or demeanor. If they are suddenly anxious, sad, or nervous, but there is no explanation, it could point to abuse. Ask questions when you find something missing, or there are questionable charges on the credit card. Unpaid bills are problematic if there is someone who is supposed to be taking care of the person’s finances. It could point to the person keeping the money for themselves instead of paying bills.
What are Common Types of Financial Abuse
Not every financial abuser works the same. There are numerous ways someone can financially exploit an older adult. Some of the more common types of financial abuse include:
-Draining joint accounts
-Real estate fraud
-Life insurance beneficiaries
-Coercion (can include neglect and physical abuse)
Another possible type of abuse is when someone offers to move in and help take care of your elderly relative, but they end up doing nothing except taking advantage of the person. They may offer to do caretaking duties in exchange for no rent, but if the lodger doesn’t fulfill their obligations, it is abuse.
What to Do When You Suspect Financial Abuse?
The first step to combating elder financial abuse is identifying the problem. The next step is reporting the suspected abuse to the appropriate parties. Depending on the circumstances, you may want to start the process by:
1. Contact emergency services when you suspect your elderly relative is in immediate and grave danger; and/or
2. Contacting the victim’s financial institutions directly when you suspect fraud is still ongoing.
Notably, Pennsylvania also offers considerable help and resources for senior citizens and other vulnerable people. It is a best practice to use these resources. Every county in Pennsylvania has a local Area Agency on Aging (AAA) office. Filing a Report of Need for Adult Protective Services directly with your county AAA is a useful starting point in an elder financial abuse case.
The AAA supports the Ombudsman program and they have the authority to investigate quality care of concerns across all settings, not just in nursing homes. From there, they can help victims and families take the appropriate legal action. If you have any questions or concerns about working with the AAA or any other state authorities, an experienced Pennsylvania elder law attorney can help.
Get Help From an Elder Law Attorney in Media, PA
Professional help and support is only a phone call away. You can contact a certified Pennsylvania elder law attorney who can help set up protections and services to ensure your loved ones are not at risk. To learn more about how an elder law attorney can help, contact Anderson Elder Law today to schedule an initial consultation. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (610)-566-4700. With an office in Media, we serve communities in Delaware County and throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania.