What is financial exploitation?
Financial exploitation happens when deceitful individuals fraudulently take advantage of victims’ finances and resources by intentionally lying to, stealing from, or otherwise misleading the victim. Perpetrators of financial exploitation target unsuspecting victims with considerable or stable income by falsely promising goods or services, when in reality the perpetrators’ goal is to gain control of the victim’s assets, finances, or income.
What are some examples of financial exploitation?
Examples of financial exploitation in Marin today include caregiver abuse, where ill-intentioned and unqualified individuals pose as caregivers then take advantage of the elder’s finances or resources to the detriment of the elder’s physical and financial wellbeing; and power-of-attorney abuse, whereby someone who is allowed to make legally binding decisions on behalf of the elder uses that power for personal gain or profit. It is essential to be extremely mindful and well-informed about any individual who gains access to your personal information and accounts; or who has legal authority to act on your behalf.
Financial exploitation can also take the form of annuities and securities.
Unfair or misleading home equity agreements are further instances of financial exploitation or that can severely impact senior victims. All too often, insurance companies and salespeople will try to sell costly and inappropriate annuities to elders. These types of fraudulent annuities may often promise high pay-outs, but in effect drain the elder’s financial resources while benefiting the insurance agency.
Related to annuities fraud are banking fraud and consumer fraud: vendors or institutions sell insurance, financial or banking products and investments that are unsuitable, unfair, or contain excessive hidden costs and fees.
Why are seniors at risk?
Financial exploitation targets victims across all demographics, but unfortunately, the past decade has seen an increase in the targeting of the elderly.
Elderly people are particularly at risk for financial exploitation, as well as other forms of financial abuse, because they tend to have amassed more savings and higher credit ratings over their lifetimes. Retirement funds are increasingly targeted by perpetrators of financial exploitation. Elderly people are also less familiar with digitized versions of financial accounts and funds, and therefore less likely to check their accounts on a regular basis. Elderly people tend to have or have had fixed incomes and are targeted by scam artists with a much higher rate than the rest of the population.
Geographic solitariness and dependence on caregivers and advisors are other factors that lead to an increased incidence of identity theft among elderly people. Unfortunately, many seniors tend to be victimized by their caregivers and other people they generally trust.
How can seniors avoid financial exploitation?
Financial exploitation is rampant, but there are important steps that seniors and their families can take to prevent and avoid financial exploitation.
- Protect your assets: Plan ahead and ensure that you have control over what happens to your finances and assets in the future. Talk to a trusted attorney or financial advisor about your options; and consider reliable estate planning services.
- Be wary of telemarketers: Never give personal information to anybody who contacts you over the phone. Telemarketers or phone scammers may try to convince you of their legitimacy by alleging there is a problem with your current finances, but do not trust or give any information to people who contact you over the phone.
- Never pay fees or taxes to collect sweepstakes or lottery “winnings.”
- Do not rush into financial decisions. Take your time, consider all your options, and consult with credentialed advisors you trust.
- Do not sign any documents you do not completely understand. Make sure you read any document in full before committing to its terms.
- Build a relationship with your bankers and financial advisors to ensure they will look out for your financial safety and wellbeing.
- Check references and credentials before you hire any caretaker or assistant who may gain access to your private information. Do not allow workers to have access to any of your personal or financial information.
- Keep records of payments you make with checks and credit cards so that you have a paper trail of your financial transactions. Make sure you check your bank statements regularly to ensure that no unauthorized payments or transactions are being made on your behalf.
What should I do if I believe I have been the victim of financial exploitation?
How to report elder abuse:
The most important thing you can do if you believe you or your loved one has been the victim of financial exploitation is to ask for help. There are several resources in place to help victims of financial exploitation.
The Evans Law Firm specializes in elder abuse litigation in California. If you believe that you or a loved one have been the victim of financial exploitation, contact the lawyers at the Evans Law Firm toll free at 1-888-50EVANS for a free and confidential consultation, or email email@example.com
If you suspect a scam or fraudulent behavior related to annuity or insurance policies, contact the Department of Insurance to report it immediately. To report fraud in California, call 1-800-927-HELP.
You can also contact the Adult Protective Services of Marin County at 415-473-2774.
If you believe that you or a loved one have been the victim of financial exploitation, contact the lawyers at the Evans Law Firm toll free at 1-888-50EVANS for a free and confidential consultation, or email firstname.lastname@example.org