How To Prevent Elder Financial Abuse


Posted in on September 7, 2017

Massachusetts General Laws define financial exploitation as the substantial monetary or property loss of an elderly person due to an act or omission of another person.  Financial exploitation occurs in the form of internet (or darknet) scams, forging signatures on checks, the illicit use of credit cards and the misuse of a power of attorney.  It also includes exerting undue influence over an elderly person to convince them to transfer assets or change his or her Will, Trust, Durable Power of Attorney or other estate planning documents.  In Massachusetts, elder abuse, including financial exploitation, is a crime, however it is often unreported and not discovered until the victim has passed away.  Elders tend not to report incidents of financial exploitation because they are fearful of retaliation, may have diminished cognitive or physical ability, or simply because they are embarrassed that they were taken advantage of.

The signs of financial elder abuse include, but are not limited to, the elder giving away property; the elder changing their estate plan at the urging of someone else; the elder spending time with a new “friend” and is paying that person in exchange for care; or bank account or credit card statements reflecting transactions that the elder either could not or would not have made.  Despite the perception that an elder is likely to be exploited by a stranger, it is more likely that a family member is the perpetrator of financial abuse.  Given the rise in opioid addiction, there has been a rise in Massachusetts of complaints of financial exploitation due to adult addicted children moving back in with their elderly parents or other elderly relatives.

It is important to protect yourself and your loved ones from becoming a victim of elder financial abuse.  There are a few steps you can take to protect yourself or your loved ones, such as: be aware of your finances or the elder’s finances, even if someone is managing the bills for you or the elder, check the credit card statement and bank statements, question any unusual or suspicious transactions; set up direct deposit for social security or other income; do not give out personal information, such as our social security number or bank account information over the phone; be wary of emails claiming a loved one is traveling and has been robbed or needs your financial assistance; and do not meet with a financial planner who you did not initiate contact with.

If you believe you or a loved one is being financially exploited, this should be referred to Elder Services and the police.  However, it is often the case that the financial exploitation is not discovered until after the death of a loved one because elders often to not report exploitation out of embarrassment or fear of retribution.  If you believe you or a loved one are or were a victim of fraudulent exploitation, contact Baker, Braverman & Barbadoro, P.C. to assert your rights.Susan M. Molinari.