Prevention and response to financial abuse on the elderly or the “third age”.
ABUSE OF THE ELDERLY AND FINANCIAL EXPLOITATION
Often the elderly are victims of financial abuse. We define financial abuse of illegal or improper use of money and property of the elderly. Financial abuse can be disguised in various ways, in many causes and forms of presentation.
Unfortunately there will always be people willing to take advantage of adults and seize their goods or their money. The abuse can come from anyone, including people known to them, perhaps a family member, friend, a son (a) and in some cases even the spouse.
And maybe someone you do not know very well, such as a gardener or maybe someone you never knew personally but were able to obtain information from staff members.
We can classify financial abuse in the following categories:
• Financial abuse – Someone who has direct access to property and money
• Scams – Someone who convinces you of you have won money, property or other promising products or goods unavailable or unrealistic
• Identity Theft – A criminal steals your name, identification and bank account numbers or credit cards.
• Insurance fraud – Companies or individuals who sell insurance policies that are nonexistent.
• Reverse Mortgage Loans (Reverse Mortgages).
• Predatory lending – mortgages that are characterized by deceptive and abusive tactics
This guide will give some guidelines to protect you against abuse and financial exploitation.
The “Coalition against financial abuse of the elderly, is a group of experts representing the Commission Governor Services for elder people (Governor’s Commission on Senior Services), the Department of Consumer Services and Business (South Carolina Dept. of Consumer & Business Services), the Department of Human Services (South Carolina Dept. of Human Services), the Department of Justice (South Carolina Dept. of Justice) and AARP collected this information. The aim is to provide you with the resources available to avoid becoming a victim and where you can go for help if need be.
If you think that you have been the victim of abuse or financial exploitation please report it immediately. At the bottom of this article, you will find a list of agencies who you can contact.
Special thanks to the Association of Retired U.S. (AARP),
South Carolina Mutual and Senior Forums for their generous contribution to this article.
FINANCIAL ABUSE AND EXPLOITATION OF SENIORS
Example:George 73 years old added his grandson to his bank account to help pay his bills. The grandson pulled all George had $55,000 in his savings without George’s permission and lost it in a business that was unsuccessful. George went bankrupt and could not recover any of his money because he willingly added is grandson to his bank account.
Example: John, an assistant in a retirement home, took Irma 79 years old that is blind and suffers from dementia, to the bank to withdraw money that John uses for betting.
Example: Charles never knew that Gail 91 years old had an ATM card (ATM) until he realized he needed money to pay bills. His daughter took advantage of having a power of attorney and took the card to make purchases.
As people age and become brittle, they inevitably become under the care of other people who in many cases also take over the financial part of their lives.
Financial exploitation often goes hand in hand with other types of abuse and negligence. If you believe an elderly person is being abused it is possible that this person is also being exploited in other ways, including financial exploitation.
In the State of South Carolina alone thousands of elderly victims suffer each year from abuse and neglect. As the population ages, the problem inevitably will increase. According to a 2010 census, there were 438.177 people over 65 years of age in the state of South Carolina alone.
According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis South Carolina, it is expected to double by year 2025.
Abuse and neglect of people over the age of 65 may include:
• Bodily injury
• Lack of basic care
• Unwanted sexual contact
• Financial exploitation
• Mental or verbal abuse
• Involuntary Confinement
• Abandonment by those who are supposed to be caring for them
• Self-neglect that can lead to injury
Where can this abuse happen?
It may occur in the home where the person lives, including their own home or that of the family or friends. Also in hospitals, nursing and retirement homes or foster care.
Who should report these abuses?
We all have a responsibility to protect those who can not protect themselves.
Reporting is a crucial link to protect our most vulnerable citizens.
South Carolina law requires that anyone over the age of 18 is required to report abuse of any form.
To report abuse call your local office of services for the elderly or local police department. Or any agency serving seniors 65 years of age or older.
To find your local office for (Senior Services), search the county departments in your telephone directory or contact your state office.
Addresses and phone numbers of local offices of the county also can be found on the Internet: http://www2.scdhhs.gov/
You can report abuse against the elderly anonymously to the agency “Seniors and People with Disabilities.” The name of the person submitting a complaint or witnessed abuse is kept confidential with some exceptions allowed by law, such as a court order from the court or by court order if there is possibility of a crime.
Adult Protective Services
Adult Protective Services (Adult Protective Services – APS) investigating cases of neglect and abuse, while providing care services to seniors with disabilities who cannot protect their own interests. APS may provide any of the following services:
• Advocate for individual rights of elderly
• Help find people who are dedicated to caring for the elderly
• Connect with service providers to address food issues
• Connect with people who offer medical services, legal, financial and other services
• Provide advice to individuals, their families and community providers
• Help to find alternative housing
• Start the process of mentoring by protection order when there is a suitable person or a lack of resources
• Signs of financial abuse
Common signs of financial abuse
Costly and frequent gifts to those who care for the elderly
Credit cards, valuables, documents that have been stolen, unpaid bills usually without notification of service disconnection.
A recent will, even if the older person is unable to read or write.
The person in charge of care has been included in the accounts, banking and / or credit cards, the elderly person is not aware of their monthly income or performing a contract or signing for a loan. The number of checks that are payable to bearer or cash increases.
There is unusual activity in bank accounts.
There are problems with tax returns
The elder person does not know he/she made an appointment with the banker or a lawyer.
The caregivers of the elderly are reluctant to make expenditures for food and or hygiene products. The caregiver spends large amounts on themselves for clothing, jewelry, vehicles, and other products.
Forged signatures on documents, even if the older person is not in a position to write. Such as increased use of debit cards and or deposit accounts with the intention to make large withdrawals on a continued basis.
The elder person mysteriously loses items such as jewelry, art, and / or crockery.
PROTECTING AGAINS FINANCIAL ABUSE
Plan ahead for your future, the more control you have over your finances consider establishing a plan for funeral expenses and other services you will need in the future.
Maintain documentation of all agreements and financial contracts, having written documentation, reducing the possibility of having legal issues with transactions.
Be an active
Participate in community activities. Identify organizations or institutions that can help. Have a circle of friends that can go with you and be less exposed to abuse and or financial exploitation.
Protect Your Money
Your bank may help you protect your money by enabling only you to have access to your money.
Keep control of your finances
Keep your checkbook in a safe place
Never lend your identification, credit cards or checks to anyone
Be careful when including someone in your bank account
Always check the balance of your bank accounts to verify expenses and purchases made
Never be pressured to take large sums of money from your accounts
Use direct deposit to your bank account for Social Security payments.
If you suspect someone has used your debit card (ATM), cancel it as soon as possible
Know your banker, lawyer and others in your community, these professionals can help you manage your money and alert you when you have unusual charges or erroneous activity
Be very careful when signing any document, never sign something you do not understand or cannot read in its entirety. Do not sign anything until you are sure you understand what it is you are signing.
Ask for help, financial issues can be confusing.
Many agencies or social services have staff that can help.
See the list of contacts at the end of this article.
If you are threatened or abused in anyway, seek help immediately.
Your bank, the police or social service agencies can provide you with help.
Check references of any person who wants to work for you.
Try to pay by check rather than cash.
Always get your receipt.
Keep your personal information secure
Never give your Social Security number, debit card or credit card numbers to your account to anyone. Never give information over the phone unless you made the call and either a company or business is recognized and legitimate.
Maybe you have already heard the phrase that “if the offer is too good to be true it probably is.”
This may be good advice, but how can you differentiate between a good deal and a bad one? How can you tell if someone is only trying to take your money or if a business wants you to spend more than necessary?
Here you will find varieties of fraud, scams and other problems that could affect you financially. We have provided a phone list to help you avoid falling into the hands of the scammers.
For immediate assistance Contact The Following:
Seniors and People with Disabilities Services Department
Human Prevention program against exploitation of adults toll free long distance 1-800-232-3029
It is better to be forewarned and prepared when a gentle and polite criminal knocks on your door, a clever con artist is like a sheep dressed in wolf’s clothing who appears to be a good person and very polite. But behind the friendly smile can hide someone seeking to convince that is part of their plan.
A typical scammer is very timely in their plans.
This can be a man or woman, old or young. These people are rarely violent and are convinced that their victims are deserving of their own destiny. A scammer will not stop just because you caught him once. Unfortunately such people almost never correct their behavior.
Anyone can be a victim, even those who think they are smart and prepared to avoid being victims of fraud. Most victims are often characterized by the following:
People who live alone
Someone who relies heavily on others, even strangers
People who need or want additional income
They are lonely people with the best intentions of helping their neighbor, which is used by fraudsters to gain trust. The scammer will always have their eyes on the property of their victims, including:
Value fluid properties (equity)
Personal things of value
Other devices, usually the scammer manages to obtain the cooperation of the victim to fulfill their mission.
Extracted from the publication of AARP, “How to detect a scam” PF0117D394
It is difficult to detect a fraudster based on their appearance, but you can often detect one when they use certain words or phrases such as:
“Cash only” – Why it is necessary that the transaction is only effective if paid by cash? Why can you not write a check?
“Secret Plans” – Why would you be asked to keep such a great deal a secret?
“Get rich quick” – All investments should be investigated. It is very difficult to become a millionaire overnight.
“Something for nothing” – A con artist once said “if you reverse that fraise you get nothing for something.”
“Hurry” – Be careful with this phrase “today only don’t miss this opportunity”
“Only today” – If it’s good for today why will it not be good tomorrow?
“Leftover materials” – These items or materials may be stolen or defective
Do you think that opportunity only knocks at your door?
Telemarketers convince almost 40 million people a year.
When Irma answered the phone, a voice so sweet and kind told her that she had won a sewing machine. Irma was surprised but delighted to be chosen. The caller explained the benefits of this sewing machine. But to receive this new machine, Irma should send $74.90 for the company maintenance policy that the company needed. As this was a unique opportunity, Irma agreed and immediately gave the caller her credit card number. A month later Irma realized that they had taken funds from her account that she did not authorize.
By phone is the quickest way in which a scammer can take over of your money.
These offers can start by offering cash or prizes if you call a number free of charge. When you call, a kind person will ask you for your card number to verify your identity. Then pressure you into buying other items.
There are several reasons why the elderly are the perfect victim.
When scammers call, usually the elderly are at home and have time to talk and also are willing to listen.
Favorite tactics of scammers:
The surprise, the unexpected phone call urging you to act quickly and take advantage of this offer that only occurs once in a lifetime. You’re not given the opportunity to think and have to act that moment.
The intention to get personal information such as credit cards, calling cards or numbers to your checking account. With this information the scammers can get money from your account or use the bank card number for shopping online.
Tips to avoid becoming a victim of telemarketing fraud
Never give anyone your information over the phone social security numbers, insurance information, credit cards, bank accounts, driver’s license or prepaid phone cards, unless it was you who made the call and with companies that are known and reputable.
Never pay for premium charges. This includes payment for expenses, shipping and handling or any other costs were you have been told you are a winner.
Never allow yourself to be pressured to have to make a decision immediately.
Ask telemarketers to stop calling you. “The law prohibits them from calling you once you have asked them to stop.”
Never agree to any offer you have not seen in writing.
Be suspicious of the person who does not want to send the information by mail.
In some states the law prohibits you to have to make a purchase or pay money without written presentation to win a prize.