By Alexandra Smyser
As an estate planning attorney, I often will hear of elderly individuals or couples being taken advantage of financially. Elder financial abuse is a complicated issue that is affecting more and more of our senior population. First of all, senior adults are often seen as easy targets for scams by criminals. But what is more alarming is that seniors may become victims of financial abuse by those closest to them—neighbors, caregivers or even family members.
If you have been the victim of financial abuse or have witnessed this type of situation, here are three steps to take now:
- Please tell someone right away—call the police or tell someone you trust.
- If you are a family member or friend concerned about a senior in your life, visit often, get to know his or her neighbors and caregivers and make sure people know that someone is watching over them. And don’t hesitate calling the police if you suspect someone is taking advantage.
- Consult with an elder law or estate planning attorney who can advise you on legal options to protect senior citizens.
Also keep in mind that elder financial abuse comes in many forms. It may be stealing or unauthorized charges to a credit card, or the senior may be enabling the abuse by falling for pity stories by caregivers, neighbors and family members asking for money. As many of us age, we become more generous in giving without thinking about the ramifications it can take on our personal finances to maintain our quality of life. It’s important for adult children or the agent under the power of attorney to be aware of these types of “under the table” transactions to ensure cash allowances are not being naively given away.