Category Archives: Financial Elder Abuse

Study: More Than Half of Reported Financial Elder Abuse Cases Committed by Strangers

More than half of reported cases of financial elder abuse were committed by strangers, according to newly released findings from The MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse.

In the most common scenarios, strangers targeted victims who were out shopping, driving or managing financial affairs, and often looked for particular flags of vulnerability like handicap tags on cars, walking canes or the display of confusion. Crimes included cons, purse snatchings and associated physical assaults.

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Other key findings from the MetLife study:

• Women were twice as likely as men to be victims of financial elder abuse

• Most victims of financial elder abuse were between ages 80 and 89.

• Most financial elder abuse victims lived alone and depended on others for help with health care or work around the house.

• Men between the ages of 30 and 59 accounted for almost 60% of perpetrators in reported cases of financial elder abuse.

• Victims of financial elder abuse were especially vulnerable during holidays.

The MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse was produced in partnership with the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (NCPEA) and the Center for Gerontology at Virginia Tech. You can download a copy here.

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Former Daughter-In-Law Busted for Financial Elder Abuse

Here’s a little financial elder abuse prevention tip worth noting:

If you happen to notice that someone has been writing unauthorized checks to your bank account, you might want to ask yourself if — say — your FORMER daughter-in-law could have anything to do with it.

That’s exactly how 46-year-old Sarah Joanne Holm from Santa Rosa, Calif., got busted for financial elder abuse…

Holm’s former mother-in-law noted several unauthorized charges to her bank account, which were traceable to Holm. Further investigation revealed that Holm used the victim’s credit card and bank account information to steal money. In addition, Holm used the victim’s identifying information to apply for an American Express card, which Holm used and then failed to pay for.

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In addition to stealing more than $50,000 from her former mother-in-law, Holm also admitted to stealing from another elderly woman after the victim’s death, and for whom Holm had been a caregiver.

In this second case, trustees of the victim’s estate noticed that more than $50,000 of unauthorized funds had been spent AFTER HER DEATH at a variety of places — in particular the River Rock Casino. The investigation by the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office led to Holm, who had access to the victim’s financial information and credit cards before and after her death.

The District Attorney’s Office expects Holm to be sentenced to six months in jail and three years probation for financial elder abuse and grand theft.

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Contractor Steals More Than $200,000 from Elderly Widow

A western New York contractor has admitted to stealing more than $200,000 from an elderly nursing home resident with dementia. Recently, in Monroe County Court, Ronald Molinari, Jr. confessed that he billed Clementine Nelson for work on her home that he never did or didn’t do right.

According to Nelson’s brother, Molinari was hired to work on his 88-year old sister’s home in 2006…

“He kept conning her. He told her the house was in bad shape, that it was going to fall apart. He took down a perfectly good roof and put up a horrible roof. He put up vinyl siding that is coming off. A 5-year-old could have done better.”

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Molinari’s theft was discovered during an audit of Nelson’s finances when she moved to the Jewish Home of Rochester after being diagnosed with early stage dementia.

The court sentenced Molinari to five years probation and ordered him to repay $50,000 of face prison. Nelson’s family will have to pursue a civil suite to try to recover the rest of her money.

Nelson, a widow with no children, had lived in her Irondequoit, NY, home for more than 40 years. She may now have to sell her home — valued at less than $85,000 BEFORE the housing market went to hell — to pay for her nursing home care.

Don’t take the risk that an opportunistic predator will take advantage of your aging parent the way that Ronald Molinari, Jr. has admitted to taking advantage of his elderly victim.

If your aging parent or loved one is beginning to show signs of cognitive impairment or possible dementia, along with a proper medical evaluation, make sure someone looks over their finances, too.

Older adults can be extremely vulnerable to scams, fraud, and financial elder abuse. This is especially true if their judgement or memory has been affected by mild cognitive impairment, which may or may not be diagnosed.

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World’s Worst Grandson Charged with Financial Elder Abuse

Maybe Kirt McGhee was raised by wolves. That’s about the only way to explain why he thought it was okay to leave his 86-year-old grandmother penniless after using her credit to bankroll a bogus real estate business.

Grandma, whose first name is Mary, agreed to co-sign on four homes on McGhee’s promise that he would pay all the bills. It wasn’t until after McGhee refinanced and pulled out $100,000 in equity — and all four homes went into foreclosure — that she learned she was listed as the sole owner and left holding the bag.

Mary also learned she was the sole owner of  a Mercedes and a Hummer that her McGhee bought with her co-sign and by lying on loan applications about her assets. Mary lives on a fixed income of $28,000 a year.

Incredibly, when Grandma emailed McGhee about the deception, he replied via return email: “You are old and don’t have a lot of time left….Yes, your credit will be screwed up for a year but what do you need to buy?”

This torrid tale of betrayal may sound like a bad Lifetime movie, but financial elder abuse committed by family members is an old, and all-too-common, story. Why does it keep happening? Victims are often too blinded by love, trust, and denial to get help. Or they are scared to say something for fear of alienating the person on whose whose care they depend. Or they are paralyzed by shame…

“It just breaks my heart to think that my grandson would do this to me,” said Mary, who didn’t want…to use her last name because she’s embarrassed. “It’s shameful to me to think that I fell for it, allowed this to happen to me and I’d rather people didn’t know.”

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The sickest part of this whole story is that McGhee is Mary’s ONLY grandchild. And he continues to claim that he did nothing wrong. Let’s see if he can convince a jury at his trial this fall. He better hope that none of them have grandkids.

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Why Seniors Become Victims of Scams

All too often, seniors are scammed by strangers who approach them under the pretense of doing them a favor or a kindness. In fact, one of the reasons that scammers love to target seniors is that they may not be as naturally suspicious as the general population.

Hence, the success of  the “You Have A Dent in Your Car” scam…

The scammer will approach a senior and point out a dent in her vehicle and claim he can fix it. The scammer will offer to follow the senior home to fix the dent but often will charge far more than was agreed upon. In the meantime, the scammer has the senior’s address and gained the opportunity to learn other valuable knowledge about the senior for future scams.

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Important: The real reason that the “car dent” scam works isn’t because the seniors who fall for it are too gullible and trusting. It’s because predatory scammers are counting on their elderly victims to be more vulnerable and easily intimidated, especially if they live alone.

In the car dent scam — and countless variations of it — the predator exploits their vicitm by jacking up the agreed upon price for a service. The intimidation doesn’t have to be explicit. It’s implied with the demand for money. “You don’t want to pay me what you owe? I know where you live.” That’s why it’s called financial elder ABUSE.

What’s the easiest way to help your aging parents avoid these kind of scams? Tell them to follow the advice they gave you: Don’t talk to strangers. And NEVER let anyone you don’t know follow you home. No matter how friendly they seem. Even if they promise to fix the dent in your car.

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