Consequences of Financial Elder Abuse
Consider the following scenario:
Dr. Max Gomez’s adult son thought his father was no longer practicing medicine. He later found out Dr. Gomez was the putative medical director for several clinics, at least one of which was using his identification number for Medicare and Medicaid fraud.
This was just the beginning of a financial disaster. The clinic stopped paying Dr. Gomez’s condominium fees and apartment mortgage, and took out a second mortgage in Dr. Gomez’s name. His apartment was foreclosed on.
Not even Dr. Gomez’s bank accounts were left. A woman had written out several checks to herself which she had talked Dr. Gomez into signing. All the assets he worked so hard for were gone, and he was left with only Social Security payments.
Now Dr. Gomez lives in a New York assisted-living facility. When Dr. Gomez saw his son filling out Medicaid papers for him he exclaimed, “Medicaid? But I have money.”
Elder Financial Exploitation
Unfortunately, Dr. Gomez’ story is not uncommon.
Financial exploitation is one of the most common forms of elder abuse, accounting for $2.9 billion to $36.5 billion in losses to American seniors annually, according to the National Council on Aging (NCOA).
Financial elder abuse generally involves the misuse or withholding of an older adult’s resources by another. It can take many forms, and often involves the taking of a vulnerable adult’s assets without their explicit knowledge or consent. Some examples include:
- Theft of cash, valuables, or personal property without knowledge or consent.
- Fraud involving acts of dishonesty by individuals entrusted to manage or help with assets (i.e. forgery, unauthorized check writing, falsification of records).
- Investments made without a person’s knowledge or consent.
- Electronic exploitation, including phishing and other online scams intended to obtain passwords and sensitive information.
As with other forms of elder abuse, perpetrators can include children, spouses, and family members, caregivers at nursing homes or assisted living facilities, or individuals and scammers online. Adults who are socially isolated or who have certain cognitive impairments, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s, may be more at risk of being financially exploited.
Elder Financial Abuse During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Advocates and law enforcement officials have been drawing attention to a rise in elder financial abuse and fraud during the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s due to factors such as:
- A struggling economic and higher rates of theft and fraud crimes.
- Increased social isolation among vulnerable seniors.
- More electronic fraud involving virtual processes used during the pandemic.
- Less contact with family members or others who may notice warning signs.
Just as with economic downturns in the past, tough financial times often see increased rates of theft and fraud. For this reason, it is important for everyone to stay vigilant about the physical, emotional, and financial well-being of their loved ones during the pandemic. Family members and caregivers should also be able to recognize signs of financial abuse and know when to report them.
Signs of financial elder abuse:
- Uncharacteristic pattern of unpaid bills
- Account activity the elder cannot explain
- Financial statements no longer coming to the elder’s home
- The care the elder is receiving is not appropriate to the size of his or her estate
- Valuable belongings are missing
- Suspicious withdrawals by people assisting the elder or by new “friends”
- Sudden changes in wills, power of attorney forms or other financial documents
Financial exploitation may coincide with other warning signs and types of elder abuse, including neglect, bed sores, physical abuse, and emotional abuse. If you suspect a loved one may be the victim of financial exploitation or any form of nursing home abuse, report your concerns to the appropriate authorities. You can also speak with an attorney to discuss your options for pursuing legal action and a recovery of your damages.
Our team at The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C. is available to discuss your rights following elder financial exploitation, abuse, and negligence committed by caregivers and others in positions of trust. Call (212) 577-9325 or contact us online for a free consultation.