Abuse of senior citizens occurs when a person’s money or assets are used without their knowledge or contrary to their wishes. If you or someone in your care has experienced any of the following, financial abuse may have occurred:
- Money has been taken out of an account without authorization or knowledge.
- Important items, such as valuable collections, art work, jewelry, blank checks, cash, are missing.
- Charges appear on credit cards or payments are made with debit cards without authorization.
- People do not provide services that have been paid for, such as caregiving, vehicle repair, housekeeping, home improvement, financial management, etc.
- Unauthorized use of names or social security numbers to open or changes to accounts has occurred.
- Unauthorized changes were made to documents such as trusts, wills, power of attorneys (POA) or other personal documents.
- Misuse of the POA.
Who is a Victim?
Not all senior citizens are victims; however, those who live alone or are isolated in some way are often targeted. Additionally, people with physical or mental disability, or the lack of familiarity with financial matters and the electronic financial technology that is associated with them often become victims. Research indicates the most probable victim is a white female who is over the age of 70 and lives alone. Awareness, a good dose of common sense, and an active social life can keep people safe from becoming victims and reduce the risk of financial abuse.
Who is an Abuser?
Anyone who has “undue influence” over a vulnerable person. In most instances, this is a trusted person, such as a family member, a neighbor, an attorney, a caretaker, a boyfriend or girlfriend, a wife or husband, etc. A complete stranger may trick or convince an unsuspecting victim into doing something they don’t totally understand, or coerce them into doing something they don’t want to do.
What are Some Warning Signs?
The following are warning signs that may indicate financial abuse:
- Unpaid bills, eviction notices, or notices to discontinue utilities
- Receiving unusual and multiple late payment notices
- Withdrawals from bank accounts or transfers between accounts that the older person cannot explain
- Bank statements and canceled checks no longer come to the home address
- New “best friends” appear with an unusual amount of influence
- Legal documents, such as powers of attorney, wills, and trusts, which the older person didn’t understand at the time he or she signed them
- Unusual activity in the older person’s bank accounts including large, unexplained withdrawals, frequent transfers between accounts, or ATM withdrawals
Other signs may include:
- Mood changes
- Unwillingness to make eye contact with financial institution employees.
- Changes in appearance and grooming.
- Physically withdrawing or cringing around certain people.
- Nervousness or fear of people accompanying them.
- When a person accompanying the senior citizen will not allow the senior to speak for themselves.
What Can You Do to Help?
If you or someone you know is the victim of financial abuse:
- Contact Adult Protective Services (APS) in your county – (Some counties list this service as Protective Services for Adults (PSA)) The law requires APS to conduct an investigation whenever it receives oral or written information concerning a person who is thought to be in need of protective services. PSA must accept all referrals made within normal working hours. Hopefully, intervention will eliminate the client’s need for future protective services.
- Notify the police. Authorities have stated that only 25 percent of victims will report financial abuse.Many people fail to report it because they may be embarrassed or they have a close relationship with the abuser. Sometimes they do not want to hurt the abuser (especially if it is a relative or close friend), or they don’t want anyone to know they are having difficulty living alone. In some instances, they may not even know they are being abused. Notify police especially if you suspect physical, mental, or emotional abuse along with financial abuse.
What Does HVFCU Do to Help?
At HVFCU we train our employees to be aware of financial abuse and how to properly help our members who may be victims. In fact, we are required by law to report any abuse we see at our financial institution.
We offer Financial Abuse Prevention workshops to community groups in the four counties we serve. There is no charge for this service and feel free to send an email to [email protected] to schedule a presentation for your organization.