Category Archives: Financial Elder Abuse

Financial Elder Abuse Nightmare Worthy of Stephen King

Here’s a story of financial elder abuse that reads like it’s straight out of a Stephen King novel. Like many of King’s stories, this real-life horror story also involves a small cabin in Maine where an 85-year old woman from California was finally liberated from “friends” who dragged her cross-country while draining her life savings like vampires.

After the victim’s funds were exhausted, she was left alone to fend for herself in 93-degree heat with no phone and very little food. Her “friends” — 41-year old twins Barbara and Nicholas Davis and 20-year-old Jonathan Stevans — have been charged with felony endangerment of a dependent…for starters.

The investigating detective has told ABC News that the case as “a textbook example” of financial elder abuse

The woman told authorities that she had sold her Los Angeles home in 2008 for $600,000, moving into an apartment complex where she met the suspects, who gradually won her confidence and gained access to her bank accounts and investments. No befuddlement or impairment on the woman’s part was to blame — she was in good health physically and mentally. Rather, she was lonely.

Read the full story.

The manager of the Pine Crest Motor Court in Edgecomb, Maine, called authorities when he became suspicious not long after the three perpetrators moved their elderly victim into the tiny cabin. As reported in The Lincoln County News, manager Jerry Pike said the Davis twins and Stevans originally inquired about rates for an extended stay…

“They wanted a deal for the season and told me their middle-aged mother was an artist who needed peace and quiet away from her children,” Pike said. “I was given a deposit, and I told them specifically that they couldn’t move in until I had all the money.”

Pike said the trio contacted him a few days later stating they were having trouble “coming up with the money” because of problems cashing a social security check.

“I became suspicious because they seemed like they had money. They drove what looked like a $50,000 truck and wore expensive clothes,” Pike said. “They talked like educated people.”

Pike said his suspicion peaked when the suspects said they were only able to access $100 a day despite traveling in what he described as lavish style.

Despite the suspects’ specific instructions not to bother the elderly woman, Pike checked on the cabin periodically by knocking gently to see if anyone was inside. Eventually the lack of a response became impossible to ignore, and he called a neighbor to check on the welfare of the woman. The pair called the sheriff’s office and requested the welfare check that led to the woman’s rescue.

Read the full story.

The sad truth about this sensational story is that most cases of financial elder abuse go unreported and undetected. Yes, it’s true that victims of financial elder abuse are often exploited by misplaced trust in helpful friends. But even more often the abusers are predatory caregivers or family members.

Financial elderly abuse is a growing crime that some experts estimate has affected as many as 3.5 million elderly. A recent study estimated total losses at $2.9 billion.

Don’t let your aging parents or loved ones become the victim of financial elder abuse. Check out these two outstanding (and free!) resources from the MetLife Mature Market Institute: Preventing Elder Financial Abuse for Older Adults and Preventing Elder Financial Abuse for Family Caregivers.


How to Protect Aging Parents from Investment Fraud

If your aging parents haven’t been victims of investment fraud or financial elder abuse, the odds are good that it may just be a matter of time.

According to a 2010 Elder Investor Fraud Survey conducted by The Investor Protection Trust, one out of every five adults over the age of 65 have been victimized by financial scams. And one out of every three older adults are getting calls from telemarketers asking them to send money or hawking lotteries and similar scams.

The elderly are favorite targets for financial fraudsters for a few key reasons:

• First and foremost, “that’s where the money is.” Older Americans who have spent a lifetime working, saving, and investing tend to have more financial assets compared to the general population.

• Stealing from the elderly is relatively easy compared to other types of fraud — especially for predatory caregivers or family members. Many times all it takes is an account number, a password, or a legal document that can be used to commit financial elder abuse. The fact that so many cases of financial elder abuse go undetected and unreported for years has prompted some experts to dub financial elder abuse the “Crime of the 21st Century.”

• Many victims of financial elder abuse are isolated, trusting, and vulnerable — traits that are all too easy to exploit for fraudsters looking for easy marks. Older adults who suffer from dementia or even mild cognitive impairments that affect their memory or judgement are at even greater risk for financial exploitation.

Another reason your aging parents may be at financial risk…

A recent survey of 600 Baby Boomers conducted by a national in-home care company, shows that many are alarmingly unprepared to help their aging parents with their finances — even at the most basis level: 34 percent had no idea if their parents have a safe deposit box or where the key is; and 36 percent have no idea where to find their aging parents’ financial information to begin with.

Important: The number of elderly victims of investment fraud is rising and is expected to keep rising as the Baby Boomers themselves get older. And we’re not just talking about falling for emails pitching winning Nigerian lottery tickets and free cruise vacations.

Even sophisticated investors can get taken. Just ask Bernie Madoff’s victims how safe they felt with their “no brainer” investment right up until their security blanket was pulled out from under them.

Protect your aging parents from becoming a victims of investment fraud. Check out these free online resources to help you get started…

Consumer Guide to Financial Self-Defense from the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. Red flags that your financial advisor may be committing fraud and what to do to protect yourself.

Fighting Fraud 101: Smart Tips for Older Investors from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Worth the quick read just for the “Psychology of a Scam” section, which identified common tactics used by fraudsters.

North American Securities Administrators Association Senior Investor Resource Center. A superb resource. Topics include: A checklist of key questions to ask before investing; Ten tips to protect your nestegg; and Top Investor Traps.


Signs Your Aging Parents Need Help Managing Their Finances

One of the best way to help your aging parents avoid the pain and loss of financial exploitation or financial elder abuse is to recognize that they need some help managing their money BEFORE someone takes advantage of them.

At what point should you step in to help your parents manage their finances? A recent article in Money Magazine details some of the red flags to watch out for:

• They are dealing with issues that are new to them. In many marriages — especially in your parents’ generation — husbands and wives split up financial duties. When one of your parents dies or becomes seriously ill, the other will very likely be handling unfamiliar problems, whether it’s picking mutual funds or making sure the utility and cable bills are sent out on time. Anyone in that situation, young or old, could benefit from extra help or advice.

They’re still sharp but find money tasks more taxing. Even normal aging can bring gradual changes in mental function. Those changes may not affect the ability to make sound financial decisions, but if Dad takes longer to work with numbers than he used to, he may become less diligent about checking his account statements.

General health issues can also make things harder…. Other possible red flags: increased complaints about having to fill out forms from an insurer or brokerage, trouble reading fine print, or a general rise in stress about paying bills.

They are showing signs of bigger problems. About half of people in their eighties suffer from significant cognitive impairment. That includes Alzheimer’s but also other issues. This mental deterioration often takes families by surprise. “Older people may be able to answer questions and respond well in social situations, but people end up shocked when they finally look at their finances,” says Beth Kallmyer of the Alzheimer’s Association.

So what should you be on the lookout for? A recent paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association lists warning signs. Your parent might have forgotten to pay utility bills or rent, or could be having trouble making change or writing checks. Or they may complain that money is missing from their bank account or that someone is stealing from them. Of course, your parents may never get to that point — and it’s best to start the process of helping well before they do.

Click here to read the entire article

Studies show that diminished financial skills and errors can be the first indications of memory and reasoning problems — signs that can make your aging parents appealing targets for financial exploitation and abuse.

Having that first talk with your aging parents about their finances isn’t easy. But the sooner you start a conversation, the better. Need some good advice about how to break the ice about this delicate topic? For solid tips about how to talk to your aging parents about money, check out this brief video.


How You Can Help Stop Elder Abuse in 3 Easy Steps

Would you know if your aging parent, spouse, grandparent was a victim of elder abuse? Maybe. Maybe not.

Elder abuse takes many forms, some more obvious than others. Physical elder abuse may cause bruises and injuries. Bedsores and poor hygiene and malnutrition are common signs of elder neglect — when a caregiver ignores a dependent elderly person’s health and personal care, safety, or emotional needs.

But other types of elderly abuse can be much more difficult to uncover. Financial elderly abuse — when a caregiver steals money, credit, and property by exploiting an elderly person’s vulnerability and dependency — can go undetected or unreported for months and years.

And there are far too many older adults trapped in a silent hell of repeated sexual, verbal, or emotional abuse. Sometimes it’s because they are isolated and unable to get help. Sometimes it’s because they suffer from dementia. An elderly victim of abuse may not even know they are being abused — or their calls for help are dismissed as paranoia, confusion, or fantasy.

Sometimes the shame or fear of pointing the finger at a family member keeps victims of elderly abuse silent. Spouses, adult children, grandchildren, and other trusted relatives are often the perpetrators in cases of elderly abuse.

But the sad truth is that most cases of elder abuse still go unreported. Which is why June has been designated “Elder Abuse Awareness Month” — and June 15th is Annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Across the nation, health and human services agencies are holding seminars and events to explain what elder abuse is — and how to stop it.

But all the media attention in the world won’t keep your aging parents or loved ones safe from elder abuse… if you don’t do your part.

Here are three easy steps you can take right now to help stop elder abuse:

1. Click here for an excellent fact sheet about elder abuse from the National Center on Elder Abuse. It covers the basics: What is elder abuse? Warning signs. Who is at risk? What to do. It won’t take more than a few minutes.

2. Send this post to a couple of friends or family members.

3. Ask them to do the same.

That’s it. Told you it was easy.

Of course, if you want to do more, the NCEA has no shortage of suggestions about how you can join the fight against elder abuse.

But the most important thing you can do to help keep your aging parents or loved ones safe from elder abuse is to help spread the word — even if it’s just a couple people at a time.


Financial Elder Abuse Study: Older Americans Lose $2.9 Billion Annually

As more and more stories of financial elder abuse find their way into mainstream media, concern about the widespread nature of the problem has led some experts to tag financial elder abuse as “The Crime of the 21st Century.”

According to data from the MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse released June 1, older Americans are losing $2.9 billion annually to elder financial abuse, which is a 12% increase from the $2.6 billion estimated in 2008.

“Our findings illustrate the dehumanization of victims that takes place in the process of financial abuse and further destruction of financial security that occurs,” said Sandra Timmermann, Ed.D., director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute.

“In almost all instances, financial exploitation is achieved through deceit, threats and emotional manipulation of an elder. In addition to this psychological mistreatment, physical and sexual violence frequently accompany the greed and disregard of financial abuse. The vigilance of friends and family can help protect elders from those who are predatory, which may, unfortunately, include strangers or even other loved ones.”

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How can you protect yourself or an aging parent from becoming the next unsuspecting victim of financial elder abuse?

Check out these financial elder abuse prevention tips from Metlife, the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, and the Center for Gerontology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University:

Financial elder abuse prevention tips for older adults

Financial elder abuse prevention tips for family caregivers

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