Boston Elder Financial Abuse Lawyer

There are people out there who try to take advantage of the elderly. Senior citizens suffering from Alzheimer’s and living alone are at a much higher risk for this to happen. Luckily, there are steps to prevent elder abuse, whether it’s physical, emotional, or financial.

What Is Elder Financial Abuse?

Financial abuse can range from seizing control of property, claiming assets, forging signatures, and draining bank accounts. Thieves may max out a senior citizen’s credit cards or transfer funds to their own accounts. Fraudulent activity accounts for $2.9 billion lost on an annual basis. 51% of theft happens at the hands of strangers, while another 34% are people taking advantage of their own families.

Women are twice as likely to become victims. The most susceptible are those who are older than 80 and live by themselves. Victims often sign documents and give away personal information without realizing what is happening. Other times, family members are targeted because they are not fluent in English. Sometimes, the elderly are aware of the theft, but poor short-term memory renders them unable to recall what happened.

Those most likely to commit crimes against their own grandparents and other elderly family members are coddled children. These are kids who were raised within affluent families yet unable to make their own way in life. After their parents cut them off, they find other means of getting by.

Sometimes the fraud is not committed because of selfishness. For example, children may take in their parents or grandparents, and medical bills begin to pile up. Illegally using another’s finances may be an attempt to make these ends meet. Regardless of intention, this form of abuse is serious and can be prevented.

Warning Signs

There are some clues someone you love is being taken advantage of financially. Look out for these signs:

  • Personal property and valuables, like jewelry, go missing
  • Strange signatures appear on checks
  • Checkbooks disappear
  • Utility shutoff notices and other bills pile up because accounts are maxed out
  • Victims are unable to explain their finances, particularly unaccountable large or strange purchases
  • Banks no longer send account statements
  • Credit card offers begin arriving. Credit card companies send offers when someone is actively using their own credit cards, especially when purchase frequency drastically increases.

Preventative Measures

Of course, you don’t have to wait for a financial disaster to happen to take action. There are some proactive measures love ones can take to ensure their family’s interests are cared for. These include:

  • Working with a third party. One of the best ways to prevent fraud is to involve a third party. An extra set of trustworthy eyes will quickly spot strange activity in bank accounts and spending behavior. Certain groups can help survey all account activity if a few trustworthy family members can offer a helping hand.
  • Working together. Instead of using just one person, you can also turn financial monitoring into a group effort. Hold regular money meetings with people who hold power of attorney. Sometimes it takes a strength of numbers to truly prevent financial abuse.
  • Taking shifts. If possible, multiple people should take turns caring for elders. This gives the primary caretaker a break, and it adds an extra layer of accountability. Family members and professional caretakers are susceptible to financially abusive behavior, and shared responsibility makes it much riskier. If hired help lives at home, request a replacement every few months.

If you suspect someone you love is victim of financial abuse, act immediately. It often takes months, or even years, to repair all the damage. Sometimes not all the money can be recovered. Quick-acting thieves can drain all assets and disappear quickly. Call Sweeney Merrigan Law for further help.