While people often dream of retirement and enjoying their golden years, many elderly citizens are living the nightmare of being a victim of financial and exploitation crimes.
These crimes can involve the illegal or improper use of a senior citizen’s funds, property or assets, as well as fraud or identity theft perpetrated against older adults. However , the number of times financial crimes against the elderly occur is hard to establish because it is a crime that tends to go unreported.
“In the first two months of 2017, we had approximately six cases regarding exploitation of the elderly lead to arrests,” Dothan Police Lt. Will Glover said . “Additional cases were investigated, but no arrests were made. Over the years, we’ve had several cases involve family members taking advantage of elderly family members, or caregivers taking advantage of the one they are suppose to be taking care of. We also have cases where it was just someone that was hired to do a job for an elderly resident and , in the end, the individual was charged an extremely higher amount then originally agreed. This is a crime that , over the years, we will continue to see increase.”
According to Glover, it is a good idea to have multiple individuals listed on accounts. By listing more than one individual on the account, the account records are accessible to more than person, m eaning additional eyes are overseeing accounts.
“One major piece of advice I can give family members who have a parent or sibling being looked after by a friend or family member is always make a point to stop and visit your family member,” Glover said. “If you are familiar with your family member’s habits, make a point to check on them. If that family member looks unclean , file a complaint. If you notice past due notices lying around and this is something out of the ordinary, check your family member’s financial records. If that family member does not have the necessary items needed for personal hygiene, food or needed medications, file a complaint. To file a complaint, call your local Department of Human Resources. Once a complaint is filed, someone will be sent over to check on the welfare of the family member. If wrong doing seems to play a factor, the police department is notified, and we start an investigation.”
Some cases have been reported of financial fraud involving a chosen financial power of attorney.
“There is a lot of power in being named financial power of attorney,” said Alabama Department of Human Resources Adult Protective Services worker Summers Hall. “It is very important to make sure the individual who serves as a power of attorney is someone who can be trusted. It is always a good idea to establish an oversight. Individuals may want to include a statement of your power of attorney fiduciary duty in your legal document and require your agent to sign the document which acknowledges his or her acceptance of the fiduciary duty. It also never hurts to require your power of attorney to send regular accounting to additional trusted family members for looking over. Most importantly, remember, you can change your mind regarding who you selected to serve as your power of attorney.”
Bell also reminds family members to discuss with the dangers of having cash lying around in their home.
“Cash puts the elderly in danger,” Bell said. “The elderly need to be very careful who they let in their home. They also need to be very careful who they entrust their debit or credit cards to. Giving a debit card to someone gives them complete access to your bank account. Releasing credit card information also allows someone to write down the information off the card allowing them to purchase items online, not to mention purchasing items for themselves while they are supposed to be purchasing items for who they are looking after. That is what we are seeing an increase in.”
Bell also stated many financial crimes and exploitation of the elderly cases go unreported due to embarrassment.
“In some cases, we have seen older males not want to report a case of being a victim,” Bell said.
“They are embarrassed, and they should not be. However, they look at it as all the years they worked hard and here comes someone they believed they could trust and they fall victim to this crime. They should not be embarrassed. They should report it. The more reports that are made against this crime, the better off our elderly will be.”
According to Houston County Probate Judge Patrick Davenport, financial and exploitation crimes are increasing everywhere.
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Elderly residents often target of financial exploitation