Who can you trust? Deb hears this question over and over again in her professional practice as an elder law attorney and a fee-only, holistic financial planner. Let Deb teach you how to protect yourself and your assets from those who might not have your best interests at heart. [Editor's note: Deb no longer contributes to Silver Planet, but we have made her archived blog entries available as a service to our readers.]
Financial exploitation is the second most common form of elder abuse. Exploitation is theft, pure and simple. Theft by strangers includes lottery scams, telemarketing and sweepstakes fraud, identity theft, and other con games. But theft by those who aren’t strangers is more subtle, hidden, and insidious.
Abusers are family members, advisors, or caregivers who use their position of trust to steal. They might just skim a little here or there, or they might quickly bleed all accounts dry. Some abusers intentionally position themselves for the kill by appearing charming or compassionate. Others may, over time, just succumb to the temptation to larceny. “After all,” they may rationalize, “since I was just going to inherit it all anyway after Mom dies, I may as well take a little now since I’m behind on the bills.”
If the victim ever does get wind of the theft, he or she is often too embarrassed to tell anyone. This form of abuse has one of the highest rates of nonreportage of all crimes.
Telltale signs of financial exploitation
Any one of these signs may have an innocent explanation. If, however, a cluster of these behaviors forms, further investigation is warranted. Call Adult Protective Services or the district attorney with your concerns.
By Deborah Hoskins, JD, CFP
The Wise and the Wary Blog