1 in 10 Americans who are 60 or older have experienced elder abuse according to the National Council On Aging (NCOA). While most people think in terms of physical elder abuse or neglect, one of the most frequent forms of elder abuse is actually elder financial abuse. Seniors are a growing target of financial fraud. Older adults are often perceived as easy targets and are disproportionately targeted by scams and financial fraud – including marriage and romantic fraud. The federal Elder Justice Act of 2010 defines financial exploitation of the elderly as, “the fraudulent or otherwise illegal, unauthorized, or improper act . . . that uses the resources of an elder for monetary or personal benefit, profit, or gain, or that results in depriving an elder the rightful access to, or use of, benefits, resources, belongings, or assets.”
Illinois does not have a law requiring banks to report suspected elder financial fraud and abuse. Concerned family members who suspect a senior adult is a victim or is vulnerable to financial elder abuse should consult an estate planning and elder law attorney to protect their rights – and their assets.
There are many different types of elder financial abuse:
• Adult children who manipulate and coerce parents who are declining mentally and unable to make smart financial decisions. According to NCOA, almost 60% of elder abuse and neglect incidents are perpetrated by a family member.
• Nursing home and in-home caregivers may deceive their patient into giving them money, or they may outright steal from them.
• Trusted service providers including clergy, doctors and attorneys may convince an elderly client to turn their assets over to them for safekeeping.
• A pretend romantic partner may be scamming a senior into buying them expensive gifts, paying their bills. naming them as their heir or transferring ownership of their assets.
• Scammers send emails, make phone calls or visit potential victims in person to convince them to purchase unneeded services, make a donation to a fake charity or pay a nonexistent bill.
Embarrassed, sick or mentally declining senior adults may not be willing or able to admit they are the victim of elder financial abuse. Admitting they made a financial mistake may make an elderly adult fearful of losing their independence.
Chicago estate planning lawyer Mario Godoy advises,
If you believe an older family member is vulnerable to financial fraud or other forms of scams and crimes, it’s important to monitor their financial records. An estate planning and guardianship attorney who understands Illinois and Cook County elder abuse laws, how to implement an adult guardianship and Illinois elder protection services can provide you with your legal options to protect a loved one.”
Smart technology also provides protection against financial elder abuse, such as bank account alerts, hidden cameras in the home or long-term care facility.
An experienced Illinois estate planning and elder law attorney can explain applicable laws and advise you on the best options to protect the interests of vulnerable senior citizens. Contact the Estate & Probate Legal Group at 630-864-5835.
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