1 in 10 Seniors are Financially Exploited. What are the warning signs? 

You may have recently read an article about Beverly Schottenstein whose two grandsons managed her assets, forged documents in her name, towered up their commissions with inappropriate trading and financially exploited her to miss out on many, many millions in gains. Unfortunately, this has become all-to-common in the world of financial exploitation in the elderly. This exploitation comes in all shapes and sizes — from family to complete strangers. Financial exploitation means the misuse or withholding of an older adult’s resources, and the statistics are sickening. As many as 1 in 10 seniors have experienced some form of elder abuse, and some estimates range as high as 5 million seniors are abused annually. As you first read, anyone can be at risk, from a well-known affluent philanthropist like Brooke Astor to your next-door neighbor.  

Elderly individuals at risk of financial exploitation may be experiencing the following:

  1. Social isolation
  2. Bereavement
  3. Dependence on another to provide care
  4. Financially responsible for adult child or spouse
  5. Unfamiliar with matters dealing with money
  6. Alcohol or drug abuse / depression or mental illness
  7. Have unemployed relatives with problems with substance abuse
  8. Cognitive problems, including fearful or emotionally labile or distressed
  9. Suspicious or delusional
  10. Change in appearance including poor hygiene
  11. Always accompanied by a caregiver that is overly protective/dominates the individual
  12. Change in ability to perform activities of daily living: including self-care, daily finances, or medication management

Signs of suspicious financial transactions or behavior often include the following:  

  1. Sudden changes in financial situation or practices, like large bank withdrawals or transfers between accounts that cannot be explained
  2. Atypical banking practices
  3. Eviction notices or evidence of unpaid bills
  4. Perpetrator refers to the victim as “new best friend” or vice versa
  5. Senior’s care is substandard to their standard of living
  6. ATM withdrawals the senior could not have made
  7. Senior signs new powers of attorney when not able to understand them
  8. Perpetrator seems overly interested in senior’s financial matters and how much they spend
  9. Missing personal property or checks
  10. Forgeries on legal documents or checks
  11. Unexplained large increase in credit card charges
  12. Increase in banking activity
  13. Perpetrator’s explanation for seniors spending matters are not plausible
  14. Senior is isolated from friends or other family by the perpetrator
  15. Senior is overly dependent upon the perpetrator

What can you do if you suspect financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult? You can report your concerns to Adult Protective Services by calling 1-877-767-2385, go to www.azdes.gov/reportadultabuse, or contact local law enforcement.  You may also need to contact an elder law attorney to discuss the legal remedies and other resources available to stop, prevent, or remediate the financial harm. Referrals for further medical evaluations by a geriatrician, neurologist, psychiatrist, or psychologist may also be warranted. If you are concerned about your elderly loved one, please contact Bivens and Associates, PLLC to speak with one of our experienced attorneys to learn more about your options, and how to best assist and protect your loved one.