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Elder Financial Abuse: Whom Do You Trust?

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Orange, CARetired attorney Peter T. Hoss, who advocates for seniors and contributes a column to the Monterey County Herald (12/9/13), writes that trust is an important component of aging. As seniors become less capable in their financial affairs or lose a spouse who handled the family finances, putting one’s trust in an individual while not falling victim to elder abuse financial exploitation is not an easy task.

“The people most senior citizens trust are family members, but there are situations where such trust is unwarranted,” writes Hoss. “Seniors have been scammed or subjected to elder abuse by family members.”

The foregoing relates to a recent Financial Elder Abuse headline that appeared in the Orange County Register (11/27/13). The case revolved around an insurance scam allegedly conducted by an elderly woman’s own nephew. According to the report, Myles Seishin Hanashiro, of Orange County, sold his 78-year-old aunt a life insurance policy, valued at $100,000, in 2005.

According to the elderly financial abuse report, all appeared well until 2009, when the Gardena senior received a letter advising her the policy’s address had been changed to that of Hanashiro’s address, without the policyholder’s permission. The real significance of that change did not become clear until three years later in 2012, when the California senior contacted her insurance provider over a routine matter and was advised as to four withdrawal requests made over a 12-month period starting in April 2009 - the same year Hanashiro’s license to vend insurance expired.

The trusting senior’s nephew is alleged to have forged his aunt’s signature for each request. Withdrawals totaled in excess of $110,000. Hanashiro, of Orange, could face up to four years in prison, along with fines and a requirement for restitution, if convicted.

Meanwhile, a California woman who operated a service to assist seniors and protect their assets was found to have scammed one of her own clients.

According to a financial exploitation elderly report in the Monterey County Herald (11/27/13), Sandee Palmer Larkin of Larkin Financial and Assistance Services is accused of running afoul with the law after relatives of the victim hired her to make timely bill payments and keep accounts in a proper state of balance, on behalf of her elderly client.

For this, Larkin was acting as a professional fiduciary, which requires a license from the California Department of Consumer Affairs. According to a government website that verifies license holders and their status, Larkin does not hold a current license as a professional fiduciary, notes the story in the Monterey County Herald.

According to the financial elderly abuse report, Larkin had permission, power and capacity to write checks on behalf of her client, including checks that represented her own salary. Over several months, Larkin is accused of taking at least $5,000 more than she had earned, according to agreements she had with those who hired her.

It is reported that Larkin entered a plea of no contest this past August, and repaid the financial elder abuse victim a total of $8,790.

As for attorney-cum-columnist Hoss, he notes in the Monterey County Herald that the capacity for trust has much to do with where a senior lives or has lived. For example, seniors having spent much of their adult lives in small communities where everyone knows each other, tend to be more trusting than those who live or have lived in large urban centers.

Hoss also notes that elder abuse cases tend to tick up over the holidays, which he notes is an active season for scammers who ply seniors for donations to charitable causes. Often, those donations do not wind up with the intended recipient. Hoss advocates that any senior wishing to make a charitable donation does so through trusted individuals already known to them - or through recognized charities known to be trustworthy.

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READER COMMENTS

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I HAD A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY WHO HAS TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF ME AND MY SON! HE STOLE ALL OUR MONEY AND MANY OF OUR HOUSEHOLD ITEMS AND THEN THREW US OUT INTO THE STREETS. WE ARE LOSING OUR ONLY HOME BECAUSE OF HIM AND WE HAVE NOTHING TO FIGHT BACK! IF YOU ARE ANYONE YOU MAY KNOW WISHES TO TAKE ON SUCH A CASE, PLEASE LET ME KNOW! THANKYOU AND GOD BLESS

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