Financial Abuse and Exploitation by Caregivers or In-Home Helpers
Financial abuse occurs when an individual is financially exploited by caregivers like a friend, family member, nursing home staff, or other paid service providers. After decades of hard work, saving money, and investing in retirement, this type of abuse can leave many penniless. Unfortunately, financial exploitation is common among older adults. Sometimes, abusers can also leave our family members without means of caring for themselves, with a loss of independence, and even homelessness. Fortunately, there are ways to safeguard against financial abuse and take action when it does occur.
WHAT IS FINANCIAL ABUSE?
As people age or experience health changes, they may need the help of others to manage their finances and care for them. This is especially true in cases where someone experiences a cognitive decline. For example, Alzheimer’s, dementia, health concerns, changes in sleep patterns or medications, depression, and anxiety. As these conditions cause mental functioning to decline, individuals depend on caregivers for assistance with daily tasks, including managing their assets and finances.
In particular, financial exploitation occurs most frequently among older adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), elder financial abuse or exploitation “is the illegal, unauthorized, or improper use of an elder’s money, benefits, belongings, property, or assets for the benefit of someone other than the older adult.” For example, this includes coercion, deception, forgery, misuse or theft of money and/or possessions, requests to surrender finances or property, or improper use of guardianship or power of attorney.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF FINANCIAL ABUSE?
Whether it’s a relative, friend, or caregiver, anyone may try to steal an individual’s finances in various ways. Often, victims are fearful and anxious. They may have problems with trust and be wary of others. Beginning signs of financial abuse can be one or a combination of the below list. If you or a loved one notices any of these, you should investigate the situation as soon as possible and find help immediately.
- Unexplained written checks, transfers, wires, or large withdrawals.
- Bank statements with excessive withdrawals or the movement of money.
- Forgeries on documents.
- Missing belongings or property especially expensive items. For example, jewelry, antiques, or the sale of other assets.
- Mood changes such as depression, anger, or anxiety.
- Credit Cards, Debit Cards, or Checks that are missing.
- Changes to an elder’s will, power of attorney, estate plan, or other legal documents.
- If the older person states that they signed a document they didn’t understand.
- The individual mentions that they do not understand their financial situation.
- Unpaid bills or legal notices or phone calls.
- Missing income checks. For example, Social Security, Social Security Disability Income, Veteran’s Affairs, pension, or retirement.
- Utilities that have been discontinued if bills were not paid.
- Any unexplained withdrawals or purchases that the elderly person would not have made.
The Results of Financial Abuse
Financial abuse can take a toll on the individual mentally and physically. Victims may experience:
- The inability to drive or transport oneself or make transportation arrangements.
- Unable to provide for basic needs. For example, food, clothing, sanitary items, or medications.
- Unpaid bills like their electric or phone.
- May not be able to afford their healthcare needs.
- Inability to cover home repairs and meet basic shelter needs.
- May not be able to provide for their in-home care or assistance.
- Cannot pay for their long-term care facility.
- Loss of their home or living arrangement.
- A loss of emotional security. For example, they may fear for their future, feel a loss of stability, and may not trust people where they once did.
- A negative impact on their credit rating.
When financial abuse occurs, sometimes individuals may have to foreclose their home, file bankruptcy, or be assigned to a public guardian.
Tips to Defend You at Home
- Secure your private financial documents including checks, financial statements, and credit card statements.
- Switch to eStatements and direct deposit of all income checks.
- Consider using a locked file cabinet.
- Require receipts for purchases made by helpers.
- Monitor bank accounts and bills.
- Consider paying bills with an automatic bill pay system.
- Set up transaction alerts that are monitored by a trusted family member.
- Do not let hired caregivers or helpers open your mail, pay your bills, or manage your finances.
- Never promise money or assets to someone when you die in exchange for care provided now.
- Do not lend caregivers money or personal property.
- Never let caregivers use your credit or debit card to run errands or make purchases for you.
- Secure your valuables such as jewelry and other property.
- Check your free credit report at annualcreditreport.com.
WHEN YOU NOTICE FRAUD
- In most instances of suspected elder abuse and financial exploitation, you should contact Adult Protective Services. You can find information about reaching your local Adult Protective Services office at the Eldercare Locator or by calling 1-800-677-1116.
- If the older person is in danger or you believe a crime has been committed, call 911 for an immediate response from the police.
- For cases of identity theft, contact the Federal Trade Commission and identitytheft.gov.
Overall, if you notice suspicious account activity or experience security-related events, contact Pearl Hawaii Federal Credit Union immediately.
Pearl Hawaii Federal Credit Union
94-449 Ukee Street
Waipahu, Hawaii 96797
PHONE | 808.737.4328
EMAIL | MyFamily@phfcu.com
Additionally, you can visit any location to report suspicious account activity. For our branches and hours, visit our ATMs & Branches page.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- The Department of Justice
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention