Fraudsters have many tricks up their sleeve. Some are quite sophisticated, like those involving securities fraud or online phishing attempts. But some of the simplest tricks — and, unfortunately, the most effective — are much simpler, like forgery. Forgery generally occurs when the perpetrator creates or alters documents with the intent to defraud the victim. The elderly are a common target of forgery, which is a form of financial elder abuse. If you or someone you care about has been the victim of forgery, a California financial elder abuse attorney can help you seek justice.
What Is Forgery?
Forgery in California is helpfully defined by California Penal Code § 470. It occurs when the perpetrator does one or more of the following things:
- Signs the name of another person (or a fictitious person) without the authority to do so
- Forges the signature or handwriting of another person
- Alters, corrupts, or falsifies any record of a legal will, codicil, or judgment
- Makes, alters, corrupts, or falsifies a wide range of financial documents, including checks, bonds, bank bills, money orders, invoices, bills, promissory notes, contracts, certificates of ownership, leases, and mortgages, among others
An important aspect of forgery under California law is that it must be done with the intent to defraud — that is, the perpetrator must intend for their actions to deceive. Actions that are the result of honest mistakes — such as where a person incorrectly believes they have the authority to sign a document on someone else’s behalf — generally do not constitute forgery.
Examples of Forgery in the Elder Abuse Context
The elderly are particularly susceptible to being defrauded through forgery. There are many reasons for this. In some instances, a dishonest caregiver or other person working in a senior’s home, steals checks and writes them to themselves or alters paychecks received from the senior. Many elders execute powers of attorney to entrust their affairs to other people. However, an unscrupulous attorney-in-fact may exceed the scope of their authority and make unauthorized changes to the elderly victim’s documents. Other examples of forgery in the elder abuse context include:
- Signing the victim’s name on a check
- Altering a check the senior has already signed by increasing the amount of the check
- Inserting more favorable provisions for the perpetrator in the victim’s estate planning documents
- Signing the victim’s name on beneficiary designation forms
- Signing the victim’s signature on direct deposit forms that re-route benefit or income payments
- Modifying the victim’s medical records to secure a place in a care facility
- Creating fake documents that transfer property from the victim to the perpetrator
- Altering prescriptions for medication to obtain a higher dosage
Penalties for Forgery
Forgery carries both criminal and civil penalties. On the criminal side, forgery resulting in a loss of $950 or less is a misdemeanor punishable by probation, custody in jail for up to one year and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Forgery resulting in loss of over $1,000 is a felony punishable by probation, custody in jail for up to three years, or a fine of up to $10,000. On the civil side, victims can pursue claims under the California Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act. In some cases, victims of forgery may be able to obtain treble (i.e., triple) damages in civil suits.
Seek Justice With the Help of a San Francisco Financial Elder Abuse Attorney
If you or someone you care about has been the victim of forgery, you need an experienced advocate on your side to seek redress. To get started, please contact a California elder abuse lawyer at the Evans Law Firm, Inc., by using our online contact form or calling 415-441-8669 or toll-free at 1-888-50EVANS (888-503-8267).