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Financial Elder Abuse

California Financial Elder Abuse Attorney

Senior citizens are vulnerable to financial exploitation on many different levels. Elders can be victimized by their caregivers, family members, fiduciaries or friends. Victims of financial exploitation should seek help from an experienced California financial elder abuse attorney. Learning about your rights is one of the most important steps you can take to protect yourself or a loved one.

At The Evans Law Firm, we are here to provide guidance and support. Our attorneys have represented people throughout California in financial elder abuse cases, physical elder abuse cases, insurance fraud, annuities fraud and more.

The Elderly are Prime Targets for Fraud

The elderly are not always treated with the respect they deserve. Often they are the targets of schemes and fraud that take advantage of them financially.  The California elder abuse lawyers at Evans Law Firm, Inc. can help elderly fraud victims. Financial elder abuse can happen by tricking a person into purchasing a product, convincing someone that they have won a grand prize, or posing as a caretaker in order to gain access to valuables.

The victimization of the elderly in connection with consumer fraud is partly reliant on the fact that many senior citizens grew up in a world where a man’s word or a handshake was as solid as a written contract. Unfortunately, that is not the world we live in today.

Becoming a Victim is Easy

It is difficult to recognize fraud when it is happening. In the aftermath—when your savings is gone, or that big check you were promised bounced—you need a California financial elder abuse attorney to fight on your behalf to recover your losses.

Below are several examples of fraud that targets seniors, and may be difficult to recognize. The California elder abuse lawyers at Evans Law Firm, Inc. can help seniors who fall victim to these and other types of fraud.

  • Health Insurance Fraud:If you are over the age of 65 and a legal resident in the U.S. you qualify for Medicare. That makes it easy for scammers to find you and ask for valuable bank information.
  • Funeral Costs:Most people do not know the average cost of a funeral because it is not something they frequently deal with. Unprofessional funeral home directors may insist that you purchase an elaborate casket for a cremation. In some cases, a person will take advantage of a vulnerable widow or widower and claim that the deceased owes them an outstanding debt.
  • Posing as a Loved One:Particularly despicable because it plays off of grandparents’ desire to help their grandchildren, a phone call from your grandchildren claiming they need money ASAP can be a scam. Scammers will call and state, “Hi Grandma, do you know who this is?” When Grandma responds with a name, the scammer can then begin a conversation about how they need money for a recent unfortunate situation. Willing to help, Grandma will send money to help her grandchild, and often makes a promise to not tell anyone.
  • Grand Prize Winnings:If it is too good to be true, it is probably not real … or a scam. This motto is especially accurate when someone sends a letter or email claiming that you have won a large sum of money and they need your banking information to transfer the funds into your account.
  • Unprofessional Caregivers:Caregivers can pose as the ideal helper in order to gain access to valuable information, like a checkbook, jewelry, car keys or cash.
  • Selling Products:All a criminal needs is a phone number to call and convince you that you need to purchase a product. Often they will claim that the cable company or homeowners’ association is requiring the product in order to meet a certain guideline or continue service.

Commitment to Your Case

Ingrid Evans and the attorneys we work with are assisted by a team of talented and experienced support staff. Personal attention, commitment and advocacy are top priorities at our firm. We are very selective in the cases that we handle, which allows us to devote the necessary time and resources to every client.

Experienced Lawyers Providing Quality Legal Services

Each San Francisco financial elder abuse attorney at our firm can handle a wide range of cases, including:

Working With the Team at The Evans Law Firm

Most people do not work with a lawyer on a regular basis. Choosing the right lawyer to handle your legal situation will be important to you, and we recognize this. At our initial consultation, we will provide straightforward legal advice and take time to learn about your goals for your situation. You will meet directly with an experienced attorney and have a direct line of access to your financial elder abuse lawyer at all times. Compassion and dedication are hallmarks of our firm.

Where Do I Report Financial Abuse of the Elderly? 

Reporting financial elder abuse can seem confusing, as there are many public and private agencies that claim to serve as watchdogs for elders’ rights. In some cases, the jurisdictions of these public and private agencies overlap. California residents have several options for reporting financial abuse of the elderly, depending upon where the alleged abuse is occurring: 

  • California Adult Protective Services (APS): Each county in California has an APS agency that investigates allegations of abuse committed against elders living in private homes, apartments, hotels, or hospitals. 
  • California Long-Term Care Ombudsman: California also has an extensive network of Long-Term Care Ombudsman representatives who investigate allegations of abuse and neglect committed against elders living in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
  • Attorney General Division of Medical Fraud and Elder Abuse: The Attorney General’s office investigates allegations of fraud and abuse committed against elders by nursing homes, long-term care facilities, and healthcare providers.
  • California Department of Social Services: The Department of Social Services handles reports of abuse committed against elders in adult day programs, residential care facilities, and general healthcare facilities. 
  • California Department of Public Health: The Department of Public Health investigates reports of elder abuse in nursing homes, long-term care facilities, adult day health centers, and rehab centers. It also maintains a comprehensive database of more than 10,000 healthcare facilities in the state that includes each facility’s complaints history. 

The best way to report financial elder abuse is to contact one of the above agencies and then get in touch with a California financial elder abuse attorney who can help you pursue your claim to resolution.  

What Are the Warning Signs of Elder Financial Abuse? 

Financial elder abuse is not always immediately obvious. Unlike physical elder abuse, which often leaves physical evidence as soon as the abuse occurs, the financial damage incurred as a result of financial elder abuse often occurs slowly over extended periods of time. As such, the elder’s family members need to familiarize themselves with some of the warning signs that financial elder abuse may be occurring

Some of the most common warning signs of financial elder abuse include: 

  • Missing cash, checks, and personal effects 
  • Strange or unusual banking activity, such as large transactions or transactions with unknown merchants or individuals 
  • Signatures on financial documents that do not match the account holder’s signature
  • Checks signed by the elder but otherwise filled out by someone else
  • Checks being made out to “cash”
  • Sudden investments in real estate, timeshares, annuities, or other financial products
  • Donations to non-profit organizations to which the elder has not previously donated 
  • Expensive gifts, especially to individuals with whom the elder is not particularly close
  • An increase in activity on accounts that were previously little-used 
  • A caretaker, new friend, or “long-lost relative” who takes an inappropriate interest in the elder’s financial affairs (this can indicate possible undue influence)
  • Adding the name of a caretaker or other inappropriate party to the elder’s accounts 
  • Naming a caretaker or other inappropriate party as a beneficiary to the elder’s will 

Not all of these warning signs necessarily prove that financial elder abuse is occurring. In many cases, there could be a perfectly innocent explanation for unusual financial activity. If you’re unsure, a California financial elder abuse attorney can talk through your concerns with you and help you figure out your next steps. 

How Do I Prove Financial Elder Abuse? 

Proving financial elder abuse can be tricky, as gifts to friends or investments in real property, for example, are not always the result of abuse or misappropriation. In addition, the perpetrators of financial elder abuse often give seemingly legitimate explanations for their actions and structure their schemes in such a way as to maintain “plausible deniability.” This is particularly true when the financial abuse occurs in an institutional setting

To prove financial elder abuse under California law, the plaintiff generally must show:

  1. The victim is aged 65 or older,
  2. The perpetrator took, secreted, appropriated, obtained, or retained real or personal property of the victim for a wrongful use or with the intent to defraud, or
  3. The perpetrator assisted in the taking, secreting, appropriating, obtaining or retaining of real or personal property of the victim for a wrongful use or with the intent to defraud, or
  4. The perpetrator took, secreted, appropriated, obtained, or retained or assisted in the taking, secreting, appropriating, obtaining or retaining of real or personal property of the victim by undue influence as defined in Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code Section 15610.70.
  5. The perpetrator shall be deemed to have taken, secreted, appropriated, obtained or retained the real or personal property of a senior if, among other things, the perpetrator knew or should have known that his or her conduct was likely to be harmful to the senior victim.

Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code Section 15610.30

The burden of proof for civil claims of financial elder abuse is the preponderance of the evidence standard. Under this standard, the plaintiff need only prove that it is “more likely than not” that the abuse occurred, which is a much lower standard than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard used in criminal cases. A California financial elder abuse attorney can help you gather the appropriate evidence to prove each of the above elements of a civil financial elder abuse claim. 

Unfortunately, Becoming a Victim Is Easy 

Common Scams that Target Elders

Perpetrators of financial elder abuse are a crafty lot and are constantly devising new and creative ways to separate elders from their money. Some of these scams can be quite sophisticated and raise few or no red flags due to their polished and professional veneer. A few of the most common types of scams that target the elderly include: 

  • Telemarketing fraud: Occurs where the perpetrator poses as a telemarketer for a legitimate enterprise in an attempt to sell the victim non-existent products or obtain their credit card information. 
  • Phishing scams: Occur when the perpetrator sends the victim a fake email from a legitimate-looking institution (usually one they trust, such as their bank) in an attempt to obtain their login information, credit card information, or other financial information. 
  • Lottery scams: Occur when the perpetrator informs the victim that they have won the lottery but that they must pay taxes on their winnings before obtaining them. 
  • Social Security scams: Occur when the perpetrator contacts the victim posing as an official from the Social Security Administration in an attempt to obtain their Social Security number, credit card number, or other sensitive financial information. 

Scammers’ tactics change often; do not assume that because you are knowledgeable about existing scams, you cannot become a victim of future scams.

Legal Options for Preventing or Stopping Financial Elder Abuse

Sometimes financial elder abuse can occur slowly over the course of several years, while in other instances it is a single, isolated incident. In either case, once the perpetrators of financial elder abuse identify a victim and successfully obtain money from them, they are likely to continue the abuse for as long as they have access to the victim’s funds. If you notice one or more of the red flags of financial elder abuse, there are several steps you can take to stop the abuse before it results in further losses. A California financial elder abuse attorney can discuss some of these options with you.

Freeze the Account at Issue

One of the simplest and most effective strategies for stopping financial elder abuse is to freeze the account from which the assets are being exploited. Freezing can often be accomplished through a financial institution’s website or mobile app or by calling customer service and reporting suspected fraud. In California, employees of financial institutions are mandated reporters of financial abuse or suspected financial abuse under the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act and have the authority to freeze assets based on their suspicions. On the other hand, failure to report financial abuse may in certain cases subject the reporter to a civil penalty.

Request a Restraining Order

A more drastic option for stopping financial elder abuse is to request a restraining order. This may be an effective strategy where the financial elder abuse is being committed by a specific person whose identity is known to the victim, such as a friend, relative, or attorney-in-fact with power over the victim’s financial affairs. Elder or Dependent Adult Restraining Orders may be issued for physical elder abuse, financial elder abuse, neglect or abandonment, and other forms of abuse.

Report the Abuse to an Appropriate Government Body

Individuals who suspect that elder abuse is occurring may report their concerns to a variety of state and federal government bodies who investigate such matters. These include:

Once you have filed an official complaint, you should also consider speaking to a California financial elder abuse attorney who can go over further legal options with you.

Educate the Victim on Financial Elder Abuse Prevention Strategies

It is better to prevent financial elder abuse from occurring in advance than to stop it once it has begun. If you have an older adult in your life who you think is at risk of becoming a victim of financial elder abuse, go over these key points with them:

  • Never share personal information (e.g., Social Security numbers, credit card information, usernames and passwords, etc.) with strangers
  • Never, ever, allow your loved one to grant a power of attorney to a caregiver. Ever.
  • Never give a caregiver a credit or debit card of the elder to go shopping or get cash from an ATM.  Ever.
  • Your financial institutions will not call or email to ask for your username or password. If someone calls or emails asking for your username or password, assume it is a scam.
  • Do not make financial decisions without consulting with friends, family members, attorneys, or financial advisors beforehand
  • Only work with institutions you have heard of and are familiar with
  • Be wary of certain types of financial products, such as annuities and indexed universal life insurance
  • Keep financial documents in a safe place
  • Monitor your accounts for suspicious activity
  • Check your credit report regularly
  • Do not open the door to strangers
  • Check the references of anyone you hire to provide services to you
  • Take pictures of your valuables

Also Serving the Bay Area, San Jose and Oakland — San Francisco Elder Abuse Law Firm

To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation, call us at 415-441-8669. We can also be reached online via e-mail. Our firm handles legal matters on a contingent fee basis and also on an hourly fee basis. Located in San Francisco, we accept cases throughout the Bay Area, including Alameda County and Marin County, and Southern California. Also, one of the experienced members of our office staff (non-lawyer) speaks Spanish, hablamos Español.

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