Financial exploitation of the elderly can be perpetrated by people they know, or don’t know, and can happen in many different ways, large and small. Financial exploitation means the misuse or withholding of an older adult’s resources by another 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. Anyone can be at risk, from a well-known affluent philanthropist like Brooke Astor to your next door neighbor.

How do you recognize if someone is at risk of financial exploitation? Red flags that someone may be at risk of financial exploitation are as follows: social isolation, bereavement, dependence on another to provide care, financially responsible for adult child or spouse, unfamiliar with matters dealing with money, alcohol or drug abuse, depression or mental illness, have unemployed relatives with problems with substance abuse, cognitive problems, fearful, emotionally labile or distressed, suspicious or delusional, change in appearance, poor hygiene, accompanied by a caregiver that is overly protective/dominates the patient/client, or change in ability to perform activities of daily living, including self-care, daily finances or medication management.

What are the signs of financial abuse? The following are indicators or clues that abuse has or may be occurring: large bank withdrawals or transfers between accounts that cannot be explained, atypical banking practices, eviction notices, evidence of unpaid bills, perpetrator refers to the victim as “new best friend” or vice versa, senior’s care is substandard to their standard of living, ATM withdrawals the senior could not have made, senior signs new powers of attorney when not able to understand the same, perpetrator seems overly interested in senior’s financial matters and how much they spend, missing personal property, missing checks, forgeries on legal documents or checks, unexplained large increase in credit card charges, increase in banking activity, senior does not understand their financial situation and perpetrator’s explanations of matters are not plausible, senior is isolated from friends or other family by the perpetrator, senior is overly dependent upon the perpetrator.  Most often, sudden changes in financial situation or practices is the tipoff.

What can you do if you believe someone is the victim of financial exploitation or at significant risk? You can report your concerns to Adult Protective Services, www.azdes.gov/reportadultabuse, 1-877-767-2385, 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.

-Stephanie A. Bivens, CELA, Esq.