A recent interview between NBC Montana and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) sought to showcase the issue of financial exploitation in elderly individuals. The Montana exploitation interview defined the abuse, explained warning signs of its occurrence, and gave advice in preventing financial exploitation by individuals or nursing homes.
The first thing that the Montana exploitation interview discussed was just how prevalent financial exploitation is in elderly populations. One study by AARP was quoted to have found that “roughly 60 percent of adult protective services cases involved financial abuse” and another cited report by Bankrate.com stated that between 60 and 90 percent of financial elder abuse is committed by a family member in some areas.
The guest of the Montana exploitation interview and marketplace manager at the BBB, Hannah Stiff, told reporters about what legally constituted the financial exploitation of elderly individuals. According to Stiff, the financial exploitation of elderly individuals involves “using the elder’s money or assets contrary to the elder’s needs, wishes, or best interests.” Stiff also noted that financial exploitation also typically enriched or benefitted the abuser.
Some examples of the benefits that abusers may reap from exploiting an elderly individual’s finances include housing or financial support from their victim. Some abusers have been known to offer empty promises of “lifelong care” in exchange for fees.
The Montana exploitation interview gave examples of suspicious behavior for caregivers, as well as warning signs that can be gleaned from the victims of financial abuse. Some examples of abusive signs from the caregiver may include:
- Explaining away questions from family members or friends
- Threatening to place their victim in a nursing home
- Threatening their victim with personal injury or death
- Speaking on behalf of their victim before they can speak for themselves
- Isolating the victim from family and friends
Some warning signs can manifest in victims of financial exploitation including:
- Unpaid for bills the victim should have funds for
- Abrupt changes to the victim’s will, trust, or insurance
- The sudden appearance of previously uninvolved relatives
- Expressions of fear or anxiety when discussing finances
- Victim confusion over recent financial arrangements
Stiff stated that if these signs begin to manifest during visits, family or friends should look into the potential of financial abuse of their loved one.
The Montana exploitation interview also gave advice for preventing financial exploitation in themselves or others. Stiff recommends building relationships with a licensed financial advisor or attorney and consulting these individuals before signing complex agreements or contracts that are not understood. Stiff also recommends using credit and debit transactions as opposed to cash so that all transactions have a paper trail. Finally, Stiff recommends asking for details in writing and receiving second opinions prior to changing power of attorney agreements, wills, trusts, or any end-of-life preparations.
For more information about financial exploitation, prevention, and recovery options, visit the National Association of Nursing Home Attorneys’ Financial Exploitation Page.