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Elder Financial Abuse

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What is Elder Financial Abuse?

According to California law, elder financial abuse is criminal financial conduct perpetrated against a person over the age of 65 who resides in California. Financial abuse is "a situation in which a person takes, secretes, or appropriates the money or property of an elder, to any wrongful use, or with the intent to defraud." It is often committed by a person who has care or custody of an elder or dependent adult, or by one who stands in a position of trust over them, but others can commit it, as well.

What are examples and signs of Elder Financial Abuse?
  • Theft of money or other property
  • Theft of ATM cards or credit cards
  • Cashing checks without authorization
  • Putting an additional name on the elder’s bank card and withdrawing funds
  • Withdrawing funds or making purchases by using ATM or credit cards without authorization
  • Forging the elder’s checks or other documents
  • Deceiving an elder to sign a financial document—a will, a loan application, or some other document
  • Selling an elder unnecessary or overpriced goods or services
  • Improperly using an elder’s power of attorney
  • Improperly using an elder’s conservatorship
  • Deceiving an elder to invest in an overpriced or scam proposition Deceiving an elder by telephone or mail to give or spend money
  • Deceiving an elder into borrowing money on a home with terms that guarantee he or she will default and lose his or her equity
  • Stealing an elder’s identity or financial data and using it to steal money or property of the elder, or of another in a way that will compromise the elder’s credit
How do people obtain and then use stolen identity?
  • They obtain names, addresses, social security numbers, account numbers, PIN numbers, passwords, etc., by:
    • Stealing purses and wallets
    • Stealing mail
    • Stealing contents of trash
    • Stealing items from the elder’s home
    • Buying information from insiders who wrongly take it at the elder’s work
    • Buying information from insiders who wrongly take it from store credit applications
    • Deceive elders into giving it to them in e-mails and internet forms by telling them that they have either won a prize, or that their account (bank account, trading account, business account, etc.) has been compromised by fraud and will be soon be closed for their protection unless they promptly provide personal information (SSN, password, etc.) to verify that they are the correct user.
  • They use the elder’s personal information to open credit cards and purchase in their name.
  • They open bank accounts in the elder’s name and write bad checks
  • They counterfeit checks or credit cards, or forge the elder’s name to them, and use them to drain all the money from the elder’s account.
  • They will buy cars or other high-priced items by taking out loans in the elder’s name
Who are the perpetrators of Elder Financial Abuse?

Elder financial abuse can occur whether the elder person is situated in a private residence (Domestic Elder Abuse) or is a resident of a long-term care facility such as a nursing home (Institutional Elder Abuse).

In domestic elder abuse, the people most likely to commit financial abuse are the family members and caregivers who have close contact with the elder. Such persons include the spouse, adult children, siblings, and other family members. In-home caregivers have also been guilty of taking financial advantage of the elder people in their care. Another group that has been known to commit elder financial abuse are family members who have not been close to the elder, but suddenly appear and claim great interest in his or her well-being, as well as in his or her estate.

Others who might commit elder financial abuse are unscrupulous or fraudulent telemarketers, and contractors, and those who acquire the elder’s personal and financial information with the intent to use it to steal his or her money and other financial assets.
In institutional elder abuse, perpetrators are most likely to be direct caregivers of the elder, but they can also be administrators of the nursing home.

How does one prevent Elder Financial Abuse?
  • Regularly check the accuracy of monthly statements of credit cards and bills.
  • Shred all receipts or pre-approved credit card offers.
  • When you pay bills, put them in a postal collection box, not on your door.
  • If bills or statements are over two weeks late, call the post office, bank and issuing business to see if they’ve been mailed and to what address.
  • Don’t put your PIN number on a credit card or bankcard.
  • Don’t put your social security number on a check.
  • When you pay a bill with a check, only put the last four digits of the account number at the top of the check. They know the rest of it.
  • Don’t put your full name on your return address. Put the first initial of your first name and your full last name.
  • Photocopy both sides of all the cards and papers in your wallet and keep the copies handy in case your wallet is lost or stolen.
  • Don’t carry your social security card or passport, except on the day you need it.
    NEVER give identity or financial information—SSN, account numbers, etc.—over the telephone or Internet (including in an e-mail) unless you initiate the contact and you trust the entity you contacted. If an e-mail is sent to you requesting such information, telephone the sender to confirm that they sent it, then close their e-mail and initiate a new one from you to them.
  • Get a copy of your credit reports from the reporting agencies, and confirm that they are correct. There are three credit reporting agencies. They are:
    • Trans Union Credit Services (800) 888-4213
    • Equifax Credit Services (800) 685-1111
    • Experian Credit Services (800) 397-3742
Seeking assistance

If you suspect that you or a loved one is the victim of elder financial abuse, or that your financial identity might have been compromised, and you would like more information about how to protect yourself or them, please call (800) 215-1190.

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