Elder Financial Abuse and Identity Theft / Scams

Author: Mark A. Denlinger

Originally published in October 2018

Copyright © 2018 Knox McLaughlin Gornall & Sennett, P.C.

Types of Elder Financial Abuse

  • Caretakers – stealing or inappropriate (or unauthorized) use of assets, etc. by family members or third-parties
  • Financial Investments & Reverse Mortgages
  • Insurance – Annuities. Long Term Care, etc.
  • Identity Theft & Scams: credit card, bank fraud, and telephone and/or internet scams and “phishing”

Types Of and Concerns With Elder Identity Theft and Scams

Identity Theft

ID Theft is a crime of exploitation where one assumes another person’s identity, typically in order to:

  • Access resources or obtain credit and other benefits in the victim’s name/identity;
  • Fraudulently obtain goods or services in the victim’s name/identity; or
  • Conceal his or her true identity from legal authorities, background checks, etc.

Three common perpetrators with the elderly include scammers, caregivers and relatives.

Identity Theft can result in:

  • Denial of credit and/or harm to credit rating
  • Tax problems
  • Harassment by debt collectors and/or legal action
  • Loss or denial of employment or public benefits, or garnishment of wages
  • Denial of medical care
  • Emotional/Mental Toll on the Victim, including shame or sadness, helplessness, anger/rage/betrayal, and isolation.

Typical Scams that Target the Elderly

  • Financial seminars aimed at selling insurance products
  • Announcements of a “prize” or sweepstakes that the elderly person has won but mist pay money to claim
  • Phony charities
  • Investment fraud

Examples of Elder Financial Abuse by Various Caretakers

By Family Members:

  • Borrowing with no intent to repay
  • Denying cate or services to conserve funds
  • Selling or gifting elder’s possessions
  • Signing or cashing Social Security checks
  • Misusing ATM or credit cards
  • Compelling elder to sign over property
  • Misuse of Power of Attorney for personal gain/benefit

By Strangers/Third-Parties:

  • Health remedies and “special” medical treatments
  • Insurance packages – health, funeral, life
  • Investments
  • Home repairs or services
  • Charitable contributions
  • Prizes and sweepstakes
  • Loans and mortgages (especially reverse mortgages)

Protections and Prevention of Elder Financial Abuse

Watch for Warning Signs

  • Living conditions well below their resources
  • Unusual or inappropriate bank activity
  • Checks written to “cash”
  • Bills unpaid or overdue
  • Transfers of title to property or assets
  • Reluctance to discuss finances
  • Personal belongings missing
  • Isolation

Prevention Tips to Consider

  • Reduce Elderly Person’s Isolation from Others
  • Limit/restrict powers of attorney or agency
  • Request/conduct periodic accountings
  • Direct deposit of income/payments (but watch for joint accounts)
  • Auto-pay bills wherever possible
  • Utilize geriatric care managers and/or similar professionals
  • Keep financial records neat and up-to-date

Author: Mark A. Denlinger

Originally published in October 2018

Copyright © 2018 Knox McLaughlin Gornall & Sennett, P.C.