What is it about abusers that lead them to prey on the most vulnerable members of our society? It’s despicable but true that the elderly—particularly those in poor physical or mental health—are often the victims of a variety of forms of abuse, including financial exploitation. Financial abuse of the elderly is an unfortunately common crime these days. According to the National Adult Protective Services Association, one in 20 seniors report being the victim of some form of financial mistreatment, but this crime is believed to be vastly under-reported. Why are the elderly targeted and what can they do about it?
The Elderly in California Are Easy Prey for Thieves
Even the most ambitious criminals don’t want to have to work very hard for their reward, which is why they often target the elderly. Seniors, whether they are living in their own homes or are in an assisted living or nursing home situation, often have many “helpers” coming and going, leaving them open for all kinds of thefts. The elderly are also victimized over the phone and when they are shopping or seeking advice. Some of the more common financial crimes against the elderly include:
Theft from their homes.
An elderly person living at home may have home health aides, housekeepers, meal deliverers, neighbors, and salespeople entering their homes frequently. These people could have easy access to credit cards, wallets, checkbooks, and confidential paperwork that could make it easy for them to steal money—if not their entire financial identity.
Theft in a nursing home.
Seniors living in a nursing home or assisted living facility have even less privacy than those living at home and are more vulnerable to theft by caretakers, visitors, cleaning staff, and volunteers. With very few places to safeguard valuable possessions and documents, these residents are often victimized.
Face it; no one answers landline calls from unknown callers anymore—except the elderly. Many seniors don’t even have the technology necessary to screen calls. As a result, they are easy targets for telephone scams, like asking for bank account and Social Security numbers, claiming to be a grandchild in trouble, selling a product that doesn’t exist, or pretending to be the IRS. Lonely seniors are easy to rope into conversations and then into sharing a credit card number.
Abuse by “professionals.”
When corrupt financial advisors, contractors, auto mechanics, car dealers, real estate agents, and even lawyers see the elderly coming, they whip out their best snow jobs to take full advantage. Some seniors are easily convinced that they need services they don’t need and will fork over money—or personal financial information—they can’t afford to lose.
Salespeople and servers.
People in service trades who work for tips or commissions often see the elderly as easy marks, up-selling them on features they’ll never use, talking them into bulk purchases, and misleading them about tipping. While it may not be a crime to talk an elderly customer into a feature-laden cell phone, it is certainly exploitative.
Sadly, sometimes the elderly are taken advantage of by their own family members. Whether relatives with powers of attorney or joint accounts are skimming off the top, or “concerned” visitors are pocketing valuables or credit cards from a grandparent’s home, this is a form of financial abuse.
It can be very difficult to catch some of these criminals and abusers, but when they are caught, they can be held accountable for the victim’s losses, and much more.
California Takes Elder Financial Abuse Very Seriously—So Do I
Under California Civil Code §3345, when a person over the age of 65 is the victim of abuse involving “unfair or deceptive acts or practices or unfair methods of competition,” he or she may be awarded “treble damages,” or triple the amount of actual financial losses he or she suffered at the hands of a financial abuser. So, for example, if an in-home physical therapist swiped his elderly patient’s credit card and bought a $1,000 T.V., he could be ordered to pay his victim up to $3,000 in damages. An attorney can help make sure this happens.
You Need an Attorney Who Cares
If you or an elderly loved one was the victim of identity theft, credit card fraud, or financial abuse—even if you don’t know WHO took advantage of you—call me for help. These kinds of crimes can be very frightening to an older person, but I can help restore your financial losses—and your peace of mind. Please contact me online or feel free to call me directly at 855.982.2400 tell me about what has happened. I will get back to you as soon as possible. Unlike the predators out there, I will not ask for any money from you unless and until I am able to secure damages on your behalf.