Financial Abuse of the Elderly
Elder financial abuse or material exploitation is the illegal or improper use of a senior citizen’s funds, property, or assets. Awareness of scams affecting the elderly has risen in recent years due to campaigns by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), and the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (NCPEA). These organizations have issued numerous important public alerts and launched outreach programs, including hotlines, to help older Americans who may have been targeted by unscrupulous financial advisors or outright fraudsters. The problem of elder financial abuse continues to loom large, however. Persons over 50 years of age control 70 percent of the entire nation’s wealth.
The exploitation of retirees and older investors also has a systemic component recognized by the US Department of Labor which has identified a mismatch between the best interests of many retired individuals and the investment portfolios designed for them by their financial advisors.
Common Types of Elder Financial Abuse
Some of the most prevalent scams directed at the elderly are phony home repairs, charities, or investments, and home repair. Others include forging an elder’s signature; diverting funds; misusing or appropriating money or possessions; deceiving a senior citizen into signing any document, especially wills and contracts; and inappropriate use of guardianship, power of attorney, or conservatorship. Typically, those who prey on older people for their money or assets will manipulate their victims by playing on their vulnerabilities, including cognitive weakness, loneliness, and emotional dependency. Others will represent themselves as “experts” in the managing older people’s money or financial affairs when they possess no such credentials.
Signs and Symptoms of Elder Financial Abuse
The most common signs of material exploitation and elder financial fraud include:
- Unusual activity in a bank, savings, or investment account
- Unexplained withdrawals from financial accounts
- Checks written to a caregiver or financial professional
- Loans given to a caregiver or financial professional
- Addition of names to an elder’s bank account or ATM card
- Unpaid bills
- Changes to key financial documents, including last will and testament
- Forged signatures
- Large “gifts” to a caregiver or financial professional
- Disappearance of funds, property, assets, or valuables
- Isolation of the elder by caregiver or financial professional
- Sudden reluctance or evasiveness by elder to talk about financial matters
System Financial Abuse of the Elderly
Recently, the Department of Labor has recognized a systemic mismatch between the investment portfolios of older Americans and their investor profiles. In designing an investment portfolio, financial advisors are required to fulfil their fiduciary duty to their clients by selecting investments that are suitability for them. Failing to do so constitutes misconduct. Funds lost as a result of such stock broker misconduct or fraud may be recovered through the FINRA arbitration process or, less commonly, US federal courts.
Pennsylvania & New Jersey Elder Financial Abuse Lawyers
If you or someone you know or love has been the victim of financial abuse, material exploitation, or investment fraud, please contact us immediately to learn your legal rights. You can reach our experienced team of elder abuse attorneys toll-free at 1-855-462-3330 or by using our online contact form.