By Attorney Michael P. Ehline, Esq. - Older adults are often the easy victim of scam artists, which is a known fact. (Learn more.) Increasingly more often they are victims of trusted family and friends, who are perpetrating the elder abuse, by draining their bank accounts, selling their valuables or taking over their real estate. These type of crimes, are difficult to recognize.
One example is Arthur Green, age 74, who was convinced by his granddaughter to sign over his lakeside home, with the understanding that he would live out his days there. Green said suddenly his granddaughter got greedy and changed, she got “money hungry.”
His granddaughter attempted to evict him and sell the property that Green had spent years building. According to legal service attorney Denis Culley, Green was clearly at risk of being homeless. He was “completely impoverished, because the land and house, were the only thing of value Green owned.”
Culley said financial exploitation of seniors is way to common and in many cases goes unreported. He said a Consumer Reports investigation found theft and fraud by loved ones increasing. Tobie Stanger, senior editor of Consumer Reports Money Adviser, said that caregivers, family members and even neighbors can use all types of tactics to gain the elderly persons assets.
The financial abuse can be obvious, like forging signatures on checks, abusing a power of attorney or pleading for loans that will never be paid back.
Stranger said giving a power of attorney to another person can provide free access to your accounts. When this power is misused, it can do real damage, and that is a problem for the elderly individual.
Tips in the prevention of elder abuse are offered by Consumer Reports:
- Have a person you trust monitor accounts, and have banking and investment statements sent to them.
- Get advice from an established elder-law lawyer about wills, and limiting power of attorney.
- Automatically pay bills, by arranging direct deposit.
The legal services program Green consulted, for the elderly, obtained a court order that voided the granddaughter’s deed and returned the property to him. According to Consumer Reports, if an elderly relative is concerned about financial abuse, one place they can find help is the National Center on Elder Abuse.