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Financial Elder Abuse Often Perpetrated by Trusted Family and Friends

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Anaheim, CAMost people would like to think that those who would commit financial elder abuse in California or across the US are strangers or people not closely associated with the victim, not trusted family and friends. But the truth is that much California elderly financial abuse is committed by the victim’s loved ones. Friends, children and siblings of seniors have all been among those accused of committing elder abuse financial exploitation. Unfortunately, when elder abuse is committed by a loved one, it can be difficult for the victim or other family members to report it, meaning financial elder abuse nationally and in California is generally underreported.

A 2009 study, titled “Broken Trust: Elders, Family, and Finances” (issued by MetLife Mature Market Institute, the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, and the Center for Gerontology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University), found that the annual financial losses experienced by victims of financial elder abuse is estimated to be a minimum of $2.6 billion dollars. Furthermore, the perpetrators of financial elder abuse are more likely to be people who are in a position of trust with the elder, including friends, family and service providers.

The study defines elder financial abuse as “the unauthorized use or illegal taking of funds or property of people aged 60 and older.” The relationship between victim and perpetrator can be long-term, such as the case of a family friend or neighbor, or it can be short-term, such as through a scam phone call or e-mail. Financial elder abuse reportedly accounts for between 30 percent and 50 percent of all elder abuse. Although it covers a wide range of victim characteristics, the elder financial abuse victim is more likely to be female, over the age of 70 and frail.

Financial elder abuse, sometimes referred to as financial exploitation or misappropriation of funds, is also often associated with other forms of abuse or neglect of the senior, the report notes. Furthermore, for every case of elder financial abuse that is reported, up to four or five cases may not be reported.

Researchers involved in the study found that of cases of financial elder abuse reported in newspapers in a three-month period, 55 percent involved financial elder abuse perpetrated by a family member, friend neighbor or caregiver; 21 percent involved strangers; 18 percent involved financial professionals and seven percent involved Medicare/Medicaid fraud. Of the perpetrators, 18 percent were trusted professionals, 17 percent was family, 11 percent was a non-agency caregiver, 9 percent was an agency caregiver and the remaining were a variety of perpetrators, including home repair professionals, strangers and neighbors or friends. Of family members who commit elder financial abuse, approximately 60 percent is an adult child of the victim.

Because the victim often feels foolish for having been victimized, or because the victim does not want to punish someone he or she knows for the abuse, financial elder abuse often goes unreported. Unfortunately, many seniors lose a lot of their money - if not their entire life savings - in financial elder abuse scams.


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My father, who was an elderly and disabled WW2 Veteran, was the victim of elder financial abuse perpetrated by my sister. My father had both a checking and a savings account at Chase, as well as a money market account at CitiBank. My father was a veteran of World War II; in fact, he was one of the men responsible for stopping Hitler. He did not deserve to be treated in this deplorable manner! My sister stole his veteran's pension as well as his social security money. Additionally, when my father and I applied to the Veteran's Administration for monies to pay for two nurses to care for him, my father sent me to the bank on the day those monies were deposited into his account and to my horror I discovered that the money for my father's nurses had already been stolen that very same day! One day, my father went to Chase to withdraw twenty dollars for gas from his account, which should have contained thousands of dollars. My father was unable to withdraw that twenty dollars and instead received a notice saying, "Insufficient funds." My father complained to Chase about monirs being stolen from his account. The woman at Chase printed out a sheet that showed that fraudulent activity--unauthorized withdrawals--was occurring almost daily. My father collapsed sobbing into the chair. However, despite my father's and my complaints, Chase did NOTHING to stop the unauthorized withdrawals; but, rather, Chase allowed these unauthorized withdrawals to continue. Any idiot could look at the way in which the money was being withdrawn and deduce that fraud was taking place--nobody makes withdrawals like that! The folks at the Chase should have realized that. I then filed numerous fraud complaints with the bank, wrote numerous letters to Chase's fraud department, spoke to people from Chase on a regular basis, over the telephone as well as in person, and did everything they instructed me to do; however, the unauthorized withdrawals continued and my father lost well over $30,000 from Chase, according to the Police Department. In some instances, money from my father's Chase accounts were transferred, via computer, into a dummy account my sister had set up for the purpose of stealing money.

My father also opened a Money Market account at CitiBank. My father opened this money market account with a deposit of $21,000 he had won from a lawsuit. My father made this account in trust for me. More than $17,000 was stolen from his CitiBank money market account. I found out, via information I obtained from CitiBank, that my sister had obtained an additional ATM card from CitiBank. She, or someone for her, telephoned CitiBank, leaving her telephone number as the number to call if the people at CitiBank had any questions. CitiBank incredibly mailed out the additional ATM card without ever checking with my father, who owned the account. CitiBank personnel showed this information to me. I immediately recognized the telephone number as my sister's. My sister then used that ATM card to withdraw thousands of dollars-- approximately $17,000--from my father's money market account at CitiBank. Despite numerous complaints, CitiBank did nothing to stop the unauthorized withdrawals. The reader comment posted by Benjamin A. Marine is absolutely right: The authorities are not interested in prosecuting. Banks don't like to be robbed by force but don't mind being robbed by fraud. To make matters worse, the lawyer I eventually hired stole my retainer and never even submitted the case. I live in New York. Are you really only taking complaints from people in California? I am a subscriber to Lawyers & Settlements.

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Report elder abuse, financial elder abuse, fraud, undue influence and theft all you want... the authorities are not interested in prosecuting.


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