Elder fraud and financial exploitation have become an epidemic. As Orange County elder law attorneys, we are seeing more than ever before, con artists and family members alike taking advantage of their elderly relatives, friends, or neighbors.
The best defense against elder fraud is having caring friends or family with the senior’s best interests at heart. But those friends and family can only prevent elder fraud if they know how to spot it.
What is Elder Fraud?
Broadly defined, elder fraud is when someone improperly (or illegally) uses or steals a vulnerable senior’s assets. Every state has a different definition of “elder fraud” or “financial exploitation” of an elderly person, so look to your state laws to find an exact definition for where you live.
A recent survey identified the three most common scenarios of financial exploitation:
- Theft or diversion of funds or property by family members.
- Diversion of funds or property by caregivers.
- Financial scams perpetrated by strangers.
In the two most common scenarios of financial exploitation, the fraud is committed by someone who knows the elderly person. Most people think of fraud as emails from Nigerian princes or telephone scams. In reality, however, financial exploitation is commonly perpetrated by family and friends.
Another common misconception is that adults are only susceptible to elder fraud if they have a condition that can affect memory and reasoning skills. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 15-20% of elders 65 and older have some type of mild cognitive impairment. But it is important to recognize that any senior can fall victim to elder fraud.
How Can I Prevent Financial Exploitation?
There are a number of things you can do to help prevent your loved one from being taken advantage of. Start by educating them on the tell-tale signs of elder fraud. Talk to them about their finances and the potential dangers they could face.
In part two of this series, our Orange County elder law attorneys will dive into the most common ways that seniors are targeted and how to help your loved ones from falling victim to such scams or acts of manipulation. Most importantly, if you are concerned that a loved one is being targeted by a financial predator or a loved one with bad intentions, you should seek help as soon as possible. That may mean calling the police, your loved one’s attorney, and in some cases, even the FBI.