Abuse of a vulnerable older person is perhaps one of the most heinous forms of abuse. When many people think of elder abuse, they may think of seniors being physically abused by nursing home workers or yelled at by caregivers entrusted with their health and welfare. However, an increasing number of elder financial exploitation abuses, a forms of fraud perpetrated against the elderly. This type of elder abuse can take many forms and leave vulnerable seniors destitute, without options to pay for their medical care or living expenses.
What can you do if you’re worried about your elderly family member? The Chicago nursing home abuse legal team from Karlin, Fleisher & Falkenberg, LLC can advise you about your options and the steps you can take to end the abuse and get justice.
What Is Elder Financial Exploitation?
Elder financial exploitation is the illegal, unauthorized, or improper use of someone else’s money or property. It may be perpetrated by a caregiver or family member, or it could be a systematic exploitation of residents in a long-term care facility.
Financial exploitation may be theft, where the perpetrator steals money or items from the senior. It could be a fraud perpetrated by someone online deceiving seniors into sinking money into non-existent investments or conning them out of their money. It may be a nursing home overcharging many of its residents for services and items. Perhaps someone convinced your loved one to allow them to be a signatory on a checking or savings account.
How Does Financial Elder Abuse Happen?
Elder financial abuse often happens because there is no oversight of caregivers or because a family member takes advantage of an infirm senior. The victim may not realize that a caregiver, whether it’s a long-term care facility aide or a family member, is accessing their bank accounts without their permission. The abuser may open new accounts with a financial institution and transfer funds from the senior’s account to the new one. The abuser may open a credit card in the senior’s name without their knowledge and use it for themselves.
Financial abuse may happen online, too. Seniors may be more vulnerable to online scams, not realizing that the person on the other end of the computer is a fake.
The abuse often happens because there is no one keeping tabs on the victim’s financial accounts to note unusual or fraudulent activity.
Spotting Signs of Elder Financial Abuse
Sadly, many families don’t realize that their loved one has been a victim of financial abuse until it’s too late. Maybe they get notice from the nursing home that the senior’s check bounced, or perhaps their loved one’s investment accounts are empty.
Don’t wait until it’s too late. Check on your loved one for these common indications of financial abuse:
- Closed investment accounts, like CDs or retirement accounts
- Unpaid bills, delinquent notices, or past-due notices, especially for someone with a history of on-time payments
- New accounts opened up, especially if the account is at a financial institution your loved one has never used before
- Multiple inquiries on their credit report
- Indications of delinquent accounts on their credit report
- Missing valuables from your loved one’s home
- A new friend you’re unfamiliar with, or a family member taking a sudden interest in your loved one’s finances or welfare
- Large withdrawals from financial accounts
- Liquidation of assets
- Changes in a deed or initiating a new transfer on death deed (TOD) for property
- Larger bills from the long-term care facility
This is not an exhaustive list of indications that someone is taking advantage of your senior. Nursing home financial abuse isn’t just committed by workers. Other residents or even your own family members can take advantage of a loved one in long-term residential care. Trust your gut – and call a lawyer.
How Can I Stop the Financial Exploitation of My Loved One?
The first step in stopping elder financial exploitation is identifying it. If you live close to your senior, visit them more often and check their mail or email if you can. You may also wish to run a credit check on your loved one. It can show new accounts and reports of late payments. If someone uses your loved one’s identity to open new accounts or credit cards, they probably aren’t making on-time payments.
If you suspect that the abuse is being perpetrated against someone living in a senior care facility, check their statements. You may note additional charges or higher fees than in the past.
If you live far away from your loved one, you can still protect them. You may call the local Adult Protective Services (APS) for a welfare check. APS can check on seniors in nursing homes, not just those living on their own. Let APS know that you’re worried about financial abuse, and they may be able to help you take steps to stop it.
Your Legal Options If You Suspect Financial Abuse
If you believe that someone is stealing money or property from your loved one, you can file a report with the local police and report financial abuse. They may investigate and arrest the thief. If the fraud is online, it may be something that federal authorities could investigate, but contacting your local authorities is a good place to start if you want to press charges.
Consider obtaining financial power of attorney (POA) from your senior to manage their financial decisions. This effectively cuts out many elder financial abusers. Consider consulting a lawyer about financial guardianship for a loved one with cognitive decline to prevent abuse or fraud.
Finally, contact an elder abuse lawyer. They can advise you of your legal options, including filing police reports, drafting a POA, or filing a lawsuit for compensation from the perpetrator. If a caregiver in a long-term care facility commits abuse, the facility’s owner or manager may also be liable for poor oversight leading to senior exploitation.
Contact Our Law Firm for Help
Are you noticing signs of financial abuse in your loved one at a nursing home or assisted living facility? Are you worried that your family member is being taken advantage of? Our team can help you get justice for your loved one, including seeking compensation for the money or property that was stolen from them. We are on your side and can provide advice to protect your elderly loved one. Call Karlin, Fleisher & Falkenberg, LLC at 312-346-8620 today for a free consultation.