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The elderly are among the most vulnerable among us. Up to 14% of older adults have been neglected, abused or exploited in the past year, and nearly one-third of all fraud victims are elders.
Elder Financial Abuse
A 2009 study on financial exploitation has estimated that elderly victims lost at least $2.6 billion a year to fraud and abuse. Elders can be financially abused in a number of ways. Lonely elders are "befriended" by those who seek to take advantage of failing memories and absence of family members for their own personal gain. Adult children unduly influence elderly parents to make "loans" that rob the elders of their retirement security. Unscrupulous salespeople convince an elder to purchase an annuity or other investment that is not only inappropriate, but financially disastrous. Mortgage salespeople have taken advantage of elders' confusion and insecurity by saddling them with fraudulent or illegal loans they can't afford, resulting in the loss of their homes. And the list goes on.
Abuse by Caretakers
Live-in or outside caretakers "help themselves" to an elder's valuables, or manipulate a confused elderly person into signing checks or withdrawing large sums of money from bank accounts. Occasionally, physical abuse is involved as well. The elder may be too frightened or ashamed to tell others what is going on. Are there unexplained bruises, cuts, or burns on an elderly person who is unable to care for his or herself? Unexplained, repeated or large withdrawals from a bank account? If so, seek help immediately.
Fraudulent Contracts and Scams
Elderly people are especially vulnerable to false claims by "home improvement" salespeople, or those who seek to gain the elder's trust in order to perpetrate schemes involving payment of money. Elders also may "forget" that they have already paid a bill or ordered a magazine subscription, resulting in multiple payments that can be hard to retrieve. Sometimes, seemingly well-meaning "friends" convince an elderly person to make "loans" or payments to charities (real or fraudulent) or to advance money to the "friend" or his relative for living expenses.
Sometimes, a "religious" person will attach him or herself to a lonely or confused elder in order to solicit large "donations" that the elderly person cannot afford. There have been cases in which the elder was left without funds for rent, heat or food as a result of this type of unscrupulous "fundraising"!
Abusive Conservatorship Petitions
Sadly, adult children or other relatives may be more interested in an elderly person's assets and property than they are in the elder's well-being. Relatives may step in as trustees of an elder's living trust, or get the elder to sign a power of attorney for financial matters, in order to gain control over accounts and assets. Or, a trustee may "turn bad," using the elder's assets to pay for a drug habit or to pay the person's debts. Such abuses are likely to increase in today's precarious economy.
Financial Mismanagement by Trustees
Many elders have "living trusts" but are no longer able to manage their financial affairs. A successor trustee then steps in to manage things. If you believe the new trustee has made questionable decisions concerning the assets of an elderly person, you should seek legal advice.
If you have any of these concerns about an elderly relative, friend or neighbor...or if someone appears to be trying to isolate an elderly person so that you can no longer contact the elder by phone or pay visits:
CALL The Law Office of Jane E. Bednar for a no-obligation FREE consultation.*
Home and hospital visits available.
*First half-hour is free; hourly charges may apply thereafter.
The Law Office of Jane E. Bednar offers knowledgeable, high-quality legal representation to individuals and entities throughout the state of California. Servicing the needs of residents and businesses in Monterey County, Santa Cruz County, San Benito County, Santa Clara County, San Mateo County, San Francisco County, Contra Costa County, Sonoma County, Alameda County in the areas of personal injury, elder abuse, professional malpractice and fee disputes, trust and estate litigation, abusive mortgage practices, consumer fraud, contracts, business & real estate law, and defective construction.
©2013, Jane E. Bednar
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