The Elderly are Being Targeted for Abuse
Recently, my wife’s mother was almost the victim for credit card theft. Although she usually pays with cash, she did pay with a credit card for a certain purchase. The transaction was hectic and when she got to the car she checked her wallet for the credit card. She went back into the store and told the clerk that she didn’t get her credit card back. The clerk immediately told her that she must have lost it and that she clearly gave it back to her. After some arguing and searching the clerk “found” the credit card in her apron.
This credit card scam points to an ongoing problem, one that we see with our Leawood elder law clients: that of them being targeted for scams or otherwise singled out for abuse. Read the article below on some more pointers on this.
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The older we get, the more we struggle with tough decisions — how will we manage with our stagnant incomes; where will we live when our ability to handle the day-to-day declines, and what will be the wisest way to pass along our assets when we no longer need them.
Dealing with these financial challenges makes us particularly vulnerable to leaches and outright thieves.
Elder abuse rampant
Nearly 70% of members of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, or AICPA, report that several times a year they hear their older clients confess that they have been victims of financial abuse. Some 47% of the accountants said this problem has worsened in the last five years.
In the accompanying chart, you can see the kinds of abuse that older people face most often.
- Percent of respondents encountering each
- Phone or Internet scams – 79%
- Inability to say “no” to relatives (loans,gifts, etc.) – 72%
- Support for non-disabled adult children – 57%
- Identity theft – 50%
- Credit card theft – 27%
- Taken advantage of by in-homecaregivers – 25%
- Mistaken charity requests for bills tobe paid – 20%
Bourdon called the police and they intervened. The police officer asked Bourdon’s client why he was withdrawing his money, and the client told the officer, “I have no idea.”
In the end, the man suffered no financial losses. “Just the trauma that comes with realizing how vulnerable you are,” Bourdon says.
Take steps to stem losses
AICPA members give this advice to older clients and to anyone who is trying to protect their elders from those who are trying to separate them from their money.
- Create a support team to help consider health and financial issues. Besides family members, include financial and legal advisers. In this way, family members and professionals know one another and can be formally authorized to communicate. This provides some checks and balances and can protect against “insider” financial abuse.
- Give the older client an excuse. Tell them to blame the team members when they are pushed for money or for a decision they are unwilling to make. Encourage them to get in the habit of saying, “My lawyer doesn’t let me make these decisions alone.” Or “My accountant has to sign off on these kinds of transactions.” Or “I have to run this by my daughter, the police officer.”
- When older people start to demonstrate memory loss and other signs of mental decline, put their assets in a revocable living trust, requiring two signatures on checks that are more than $50 or $100. That makes significant financial crime harder to achieve.
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