A trusted family member would NEVER financially exploit their loved one – right?
All classes of people, and most age groups, become victims of financial fraud. The elderly, however, have been hit particularly hard. A recent Puget Sound Business Journal article (a Washington State publication) provides some astounding statistics for the state of Washington:
- reports of elder abuse grew by 30% in five years;
- 4,121 cases were reported to Adult Protective Services in all of 2010 and that number was already reached by November of 2011;
- the Washington State Office of the Attorney General only receives a fraction of the financial abuse cases because many go unreported; and
- the National Center of Elder Abuse in Washington, D.C. states that only one in 25 cases of elder abuse are ever reported.
So who are the perpetrators? These thieves are neighbors, caregivers (family related or not), best friends, and trusted financial professionals.
But nationally, nine out of 10 financial exploitation cases involve family members.
This type of abuse begins innocently enough “let me help you pay your monthly bills mother.” The adult child becomes a signatory on the bank accounts, keeps up with mom’s bills, but also pays him or herself a little here and there and before you know it, mom doesn’t have the financial means to live out her days. Certainly most family members are trustworthy and respectful of their elders and look out for their elders’ best interests but the statistics certainly paint a horrific picture, don’t they? And what’s worse, if the elderly victim has Alzheimer’s or other dementia, it doesn’t take much effort for anyone – family or stranger - to enrich their own bank account while draining mom and dad’s.
It’s virtually impossible for government agencies to monitor cases of elder abuse. The local agencies that help the indigent elderly are strapped financially. Budgets are being cut resulting in decreased staffing, and caseloads that are unmanageable and overlooked – but not for lack of trying!
So what can you do to protect those vulnerable adult victims that seemingly go unnoticed in our local communities? I provide some suggestions in my blog article, Elder Fraud: a few things you can do to protect your loved one. This article assumes that family members are trustworthy and selfless in their interests. Fortunately, that’s probably you, but obviously, elder fraud is a national problem so it’s vital that everyone be reminded of how easily thieves can take advantage of the older generation.
I’m certain this topic affects many of you and at the very least, angers the rest of you. I covet your input and look forward to your thoughts on this matter.