More than 45 million people in the U.S. are elderly. It's reported that the annual financial loss suffered by victims of elder financial abuse is $36.5 billion. A 2017 survey showed that the vast majority of the time, the abuser was either a caregiver, friend, relative, or acquaintance. Older people can become more vulnerable to financial abuse as they find themselves lonelier and more isolated. Cognitive issues, such as Alzheimer’s or dementia, may create this increased vulnerability. The elderly person may need more of a helping hand or may want some form of attention or connection. All of these factors can make seniors easier targets for financial abuse in South Carolina and elsewhere.
The facts don’t lie: Financial exploitation of senior citizens is rampant. So what does this exploitation look like, and what can you do to protect your loved one from it?
Who Financially Abuses the Elderly?
- Caregivers - People working at nursing homes or providing in-home care who gain access to financial information such as bank accounts, retirement savings accounts, or even the will.
- Strangers - A person who alleges they are in love with the elderly person without much of a relationship, or criminal scam artists who prey on the elderly, such as a fake electrician who visits the elderly person unannounced.
- Professionals - People who overcharge seniors, deceive them, or—most commonly—force compliance from them by using a position of trust or influence.
- Family members - People who have gambling issues, financial problems, a sense of entitlement with their relative, or negative feelings towards relatives who may inherit from the elderly person.
Financial Abuse Indicators
- Unexplained bank account withdrawals
- Missing cash
- Unexplained money transfers
- Untimely executed legal documents (e.g. power of attorney)
- Missing property or belongings
- New, highly influential acquaintances (e.g. best friend or girl/boyfriend)
- New investments that seem fishy (i.e. scams)
Common Scams That Lead to Elderly Financial Abuse
- Fake charities
- Lottery/sweepstakes winnings claimable by money orders
- Pyramid schemes
- Phishing (e.g, emails about false bank accounts)
- Predatory lending
- IRS scams
How to Prevent Financial Exploitation of the Elderly in South Carolina
Depending on the relationship you have with your loved one, there are steps you can take to help prevent them from being abused financially. First, simply talk with your loved one about what to look out for. Help them set up an automatic disbursement for certain bills. Review bills with them and ensure purchases are accurate. You may also ask your loved one if they have any new friends or have recently invested any money. If you see some oddity or discrepancy regarding your loved one’s finances, investigate as much as you can.
My Loved One Was Taken Advantage Of Financially, Now What?
If you know a senior citizen was exploited or outright stolen from, sometimes you will be the only one who can right the wrong. Initially, report the abuse. You may call the police or the South Carolina Office on Aging to file such a report.
It is also necessary at times to hire counsel to fight fraudulent purchases, cancel unconscionable legal agreements, or hold an institution (e.g. nursing home) liable for allowing such abuse to occur. Our law firm does everything we can to help protect the elderly. Please call us if you are concerned that someone is financially exploiting or otherwise harming your loved one. It is our pleasure to assist and protect South Carolina's seniors, and we would be honored to speak with you.