Elder Financial Abuse

As you get older it is increasingly important to have a real grip on your finances, especially long-term planning. Often times, one begins living on a much smaller income than the norm of the past 40 years. Unfortunately, the bills don’t go in the same direction, especially the medical bills. Now, let’s throw a real monkey wrench in there. Presume someone told you or an elderly loved one that a Medicare bill was missing some information and they needed to provide it over the phone. Or, an attendee at a funeral convinced you or a loved one that the deceased owed money. These scenarios may sound far-fetched, but believe it or not, these things happen. Seniors do get taken advantage of financially, and it is important for us to take this issue out of the closet. Recently Merrill Lynch (ML) published some shocking numbers.

  • The cost of seniors who fall victim to financial exploitation is estimated to be at least $2.9 billion annually today.
  • 1/3 of these crimes is perpetrated by someone the victim knows, including family and friends.
  • Women are victims twice as often as men.
  • Most victims of this exploitation are between the ages of 80-89 and most victims live alone, require some assistance with healthcare, home maintenance or other needs of life.

Here are some examples of how these schemers undertake these crimes

  • Telemarketing – fake charities, relative is hospitalized
  • Medicare billing – ask for personal information
  • I’m your granddaughter, please help me – sends money to foreign country
  • You’ve won a prize! – but the prize check will bounce

If this problem is not addressed with full force what is already horrific will turn into total mayhem, the numbers don’t lie. Currently 13% of the US population is 65 and older. As previously stated, the amount of money taken in these fraud schemes amounts to $2.9 billion annually. It is projected that by 2050, the population representing the 65 and older bracket, will grow to 20% of the US population. That means and increase of about 20 million people. The projection also states, that 19 million of that 20 million who will join the 65 and older group in the next 35 years will be 85 and older. Putting those people right in the median age range targeted in elder financial abuse.

Luckily in our area we have recently seen a major scam fall apart. Several home care agencies, that accept government aid as a form of payment, have been shut down due to money laundering. We hope work like this continues and the shocking predictions don’t materialize.

As a final note, here are some warning sign that ML suggests we look out for.

  • Senior who seem confused about recent financial transactions
  • Reluctant to discuss recent financial activity
  • Recently made changes to property titles, wills, powers of attorney, etc.
  • Unexplained credit card activity
  • Uncharacteristically frequent or excessive withdrawals from accounts and newly authorized signers on accounts
  • Checks written to “cash”
  • Transferring assets to unfamiliar people
  • Giving away money
  • Unexplained disappearances of cash or valuables
  • Any other out-of-character changes in financial behaviors

Elder financial abuse is detrimental in many ways, but to take away someone’s ability to pay essentials bills and maintain long term savings is horrific. It serves its purpose to discuss financial situations with your loved ones, in a way you see fit. The important thing is to help make them aware of this elephant sized issue and help figure out a way to decrease the chances of you or a lived one falling prey to this cruelty and misfortune.

– Georgetown Home Care