Senior citizens are vulnerable to exploitation of their money or property. This may be at the hands of a loved one or a complete stranger. However, there are special laws in place to protect such a vulnerable group against losses that ensue due to exploitation.
Financial exploitation of seniors occurs when a person is victimized because the senior’s age makes them vulnerable to exploitation. Seniors are vulnerable to crime because they may be dependent on other people for their care or because they are not capable of fully understanding their financial situation. Unfortunately, financial elder abuse may be committed by people the senior loves and trusts, or by strangers looking to profit from another person’s vulnerability. Anyone who is in a position of trust, control, or authority, and uses that position to profit from the senior’s dependence or vulnerability may be guilty of financial elder abuse.
Senior citizens may be victimized in a number of ways. Such activities may involve unauthorized use of the senior’s funds or properties, including theft, forging the senior’s signature, identity theft, convincing the senior to sign over property or money, or threatening not to care for the senior unless he signs over property or money. According to a 2003 study, two-thirds of elder abuse cases are committed by a family member. However, senior citizens may still be vulnerable to financial scams perpetrated by strangers. These scams include email or telephone scams, sweetheart scams, investment scams, home repair scams, or other types of scams designed to steal the senior’s money.
The following are signs that financial elder abuse may be occurring:
- Senior is not allowed to spend money the way the senior wants
- Senior’s bills are not paid on time despite financial stability
- Senior is forced to sell or give away property
- Senior is forced to sign over Power of Attorney
- Senior is offered care in exchange for property or access to bank accounts
- Senior’s account shows unusual activity or ATM withdrawals
- Senior’s financial situation suddenly changes
- Senior suddenly changes title of property to someone else
- Senior’s belongings are missing
- Senior’s will is suddenly changed
- Senior makes changes to financial decisions but seems incapable of comprehending those decisions
- Senior is isolated from friends and/or family
- Senior is afraid to speak in front of caregiver/companion/family member
For elderly people who have fallen victim to financial elder abuse, a lawsuit can provide a variety of remedies. First, the victim can recover money that was taken or can recover property itself, such as when a valuable item is taken. Second, victims can recover attorney’s fees because the statute protecting elderly citizens provides for attorney’s fees in a lawsuit. Third, although rare, victims may be able to recover punitive damages. It is therefore important that any elderly person seeking to recover what they have wrongfully lost has the right legal team to support them. Let the Trembly Law Firm ensure that justice is done for those victimized.