How to report elder financial abuse

One of the main reasons is the nature of financial abuse of older adults, broadly defined as the misuse of an older person’s money or property by someone they know, such as a salaried carer, a legal or financial professional or, most often, a family member. . Abuse can range from theft of household items to misuse of credit cards to large-scale fraud involving property and financial accounts.

Why abuse goes unreported

Experts say some victims don’t report financial abuse because they don’t realize or acknowledge it’s happening. This could be due to cognitive impairment, which can decrease an older person’s financial skills and make it easier for an abuser to take control of their money, or the reluctance to believe that a close relative or friend of trust is not acting in its best interest.

Financial and personal relationships can blur the lines. Families have their own cultures when it comes to loans, helping out in difficult times, or exchanging care for gifts like room and board or the use of a car, says Marti DeLiema, a gerontologist and assistant research professor at the University of Minnesota. School of Social Work.

” Thought [behind not reporting] maybe, I won’t rock the boat. I don’t want to face the repercussions,” she said.

Even when they realize something bad is going on, financially exploited people are often reluctant to act. They may feel embarrassed, partly responsible, or afraid that their family members will take revenge.

“You don’t want to feel sensitive and you don’t want to look incompetent,” Mosqueda says. “You might even think to yourself, they’re going to move me to a nursing home.”

Falling prey to financial abuse is no shame, says Duke Han, professor of family medicine at the Keck School of Medicine, whose lab has done extensive research on older adults’ vulnerability to financial abuse.

Bad actors, whether parents, friends or financial professionals, exploit people of all incomes, education levels and backgrounds, Han says. “We do research with professors, doctors, lawyers. It can happen to anyone.”

Where and how to report financial abuse

According to a 2020 report from AARP’s BankSafe Initiative, which works with financial institutions to prevent senior fraud, family members and caregivers are “in a unique position” to spot the signs that loved one is financially exploited and are most likely to report the abuse.

Early intervention is important because financial abuse often leads to other types of abuse, such as physical and emotional abuse and neglect, says Mark Lachs, professor of geriatric medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York and director of geriatrics for the New York Presbyterian Health System.

If you think an abuser poses an immediate threat to your loved one, call 911.

Otherwise, the first step if you spot signs of financial abuse is to contact adult protective services in your area, according to the Federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). These state and local social service agencies investigate allegations of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of older and disabled adults and work with victims and their families to end it. The National Association of Adult Protective Services has a state-by-state directory.

Also report the matter to your police or sheriff’s department, using their non-emergency number. You can also contact the district attorney’s office or legal aid programs in your area to explore legal options against the perpetrators, such as a lawsuit, protective order or civil action, CFBP says.

Be prepared to provide as much information as possible, such as:

  • The date, time and location of any suspicious incident.
  • The names of anyone involved in suspicious behavior and anyone who observed it.
  • A description of the alleged financial abuse and any other type of abuse.
  • Your loved one’s medical condition, including any memory loss or cognitive problems.
  • Whether your loved one or someone else is in urgent danger.

Even if you don’t have all of these details, report the incident. “The authorities who will investigate the situation do not expect you to know everything,” says the CFPB.

The US Department of Justice National Elder Fraud Hotline (833-372-8311) is staffed with case managers who can guide you through local, state, and federal reporting procedures and connect you with other assistance.

If the alleged exploitation is taking place in a nursing home or assisted living facility, contact the state’s long-term care ombudsman, the CFPB recommends. You can also seek help from your loved one’s social worker and the residents’ council or family council at the facility.

Sandra Guy has won awards for her health and tech reporting for the Chicago Sun-Timesand the Society of Women Engineers SUE Magazine. She teaches journalism at DePaul University and is a past president of the Chicago chapter of the Association for Women Journalists.

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