Obtaining Compensation for Victims through a Financial Abuse Lawsuit
Financial abuse and exploitation of elderly Americans is considered the fastest growing form of elder abuse. It typically involves someone illegally or improperly using an elderly person’s money, assets or belongings
for their personal use or gain. Hiding or keeping a vulnerable but competent elderly adult from funds, property, or assets that belong to them is also financial abuse.
The attorneys of SI Elder Law can help if you think an elderly Southern Illinois resident is the victim of financial exploitation or abuse. We investigate allegations of elder abuse and neglect and, when substantiated, we work to end the abuse and recover all losses.
Defining Financial Abuse and Scams Targeting the Elderly
The National Council on Elder abuse (NCEA) defines financial abuse as illegally taking, misusing, or concealing funds (money), property, or assets of a vulnerable elder. It is often not reported and, in fact, is often not recognized until considerable financial damage is done. In many cases, because an elderly person who has not been judged incompetent has rights, little can be done about a parent, for example, who has been persuaded to give away money or assets.
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Various acts may be a part of the financial exploitation of an elderly person, such as:
Taking and/or using an elderly person’s money, property or possessions without permission, including an ATM card
Forging a senior citizen’s signature for financial gain, such as on checks stolen from the elderly person
Getting an older person to sign a deed, will, or power of attorney through deception, coercion, or undue influence
Promising to care for the senior in exchange for money or property, and not following through on the promise.
These types of financial abuse are likely done by people close to the senior, such as:
Friends and acquaintances
Scams that Prey on the Elderly are Financial Exploitation and Abuse
In many cases, financial abuse of a senior citizen is part of a concerted scheme or scam that preys on the elderly. Many are telemarketing scams, or occur via email or the U.S. mail. These take numerous forms, such as:
Lottery and Sweepstakes Scams
A caller tells the victim they have “won” but must pay taxes or legal fees to claim money they are due.
A caller poses as or says they are calling for a grandson or granddaughter who is in jail and needs the elder to send money immediately.
The caller falsely solicits donations for good causes. These scams are common after natural disasters.
Home repair scams
Perpetrators claim to be able to provide work for the targeted victim at a deep discount, such as roof repair, driveway paving, yard work, etc. In the end no work or very poor work is done for an exorbitant fee.
Internet phishing. Phony emails are actually devices for obtaining information about the recipient’s bank accounts and/or other information to facilitate identity theft.
Identity theft. Perpetrators obtain and use the elder person’s name, address, Social Security number, Medicare card, etc., to obtain credit cards or similar accounts, rent apartments, finance travel, etc., in the victim’s name.
There are also more “professional” or organized scams that prey on the elderly, like predatory lending, investment/security schemes, annuity sales, etc.
How to Recognize an Elderly Victim of Financial Abuse
The National Center on Elder Abuse defines two categories of elder abuse:
- Institutional abuse: Mistreatment of individuals in residential facilities (nursing home, assisted living facility, board-and-care facility, etc.), which is usually perpetrated by someone with a legal or contractual obligation to provide some element of care or protection to the victim (e.g., a nursing home staff member).
- Domestic elder abuse: Mistreatment committed by someone with whom the elder has a special relationship (e.g., spouse, child, sibling, caregiver or another close associate).
The NCEA says financial exploitation is the most frequently reported form of elder abuse and is highly associated with emotional abuse. Emotional abuse includes threatening to abandon, hit or otherwise harm the victim unless he or she gives the perpetrator what he/she wants, such as money or a signature on a financial document.
In many cases, it requires someone who is actively involved in an elder person’s financial affairs to identify financial exploitation. Some warning signs of financial abuse include:
Sudden changes in the elderly individual’s financial practices (e.g., mismanagement of finances, hiding money, making expensive or numerous purchases, growing angry over talk about finances).
Unusual charges to their credit cards, or the receipt of new credit card statements for accounts you do not recognize.
– Receipt of a discharge notice from the nursing home or other facility due to non-payment.
A family member or friend (often a “new” friend) paying new attention to your loved one and receiving or asking for money, gifts or personal possessions.
A caregiver asking for, demanding or taking money, gifts or personal possessions from an elderly client.
An individual assisting your loved one with their finances failing to honor their choices regarding their money, such as not showing them their bank statements, failing to pay for their care and other services, or failing to make other requested purchases on their behalf.
It may be difficult to question an elderly relative about their finances. Money issues are private matters, and even if they are having issues they may be protective of their privacy. They may be embarrassed if they recognize that they are being abused or that something has gone awry with their accounts. They may also be heavily influenced by their abuser and no longer trust others.
If you have evidence of an elderly person being financially exploited, you should gather copies of documentation and report the situation to authorities, including at the nursing home or other institution they reside in, to authorities, and to an elder law attorney who can independently protect the abuse victim’s rights and interests.
How to Report Financial Abuse of an Elderly Illinois Resident
If you suspect an elderly resident of a nursing home or other long-term care facility in Illinois is being financially abused or exploited, you should document your suspicions and report them to a manager of the facility. However, you should be aware that some nursing home managers will protect themselves and their jobs instead of an individual resident’s welfare. Do not automatically accept their assurances, and do not drop this serious matter with a single report.
In addition to reporting the abuse of a nursing home resident to those responsible for the facility, you should contact the Illinois Department on Aging. The Illinois Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program investigates complaints of nursing home abuse or neglect, as well as violations of state regulations, and can take steps to resolve abusive situations.
Phone (866) 800-1409 or (888) 206-1327 (TTY), or identify the regional Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program near you through a link at the bottom of this Department on Aging web page.
Within the community at large, suspicions that a senior citizen is being financially exploited should be reported to the Illinois Adult Protective Services Division of the Department on Aging.
Adult Protective Services investigates allegations of abuse affecting adults age 60 and older (and of people age 18-59 who are disabled). A case worker will contact the victim to investigate and work to determine what services are necessary to end the abuse. When necessary, as a last resort, Adult Protective Services may petition the court for guardianship to ensure the abuse victim’s protection.
Contact Adult Protective Services at 1-866-800-1409, or 1-888-206-1327 (TTY). All reports are kept confidential.
If theft has occurred and can be substantiated, state officials will contact law enforcement authorities.
You should also contact SI Elder Law to speak to attorneys who focus on Illinois elder law. We can provide you advice and guidance if you believe a senior citizen you care about is being financially abused. More important, we can protect the senior who is being abused, and their assets.
Because SI Elder Law is not burdened by the caseload and bureaucracy that state workers are, we can move faster and be more thorough than they can. We can investigate the case independently of state or law enforcement investigations, and work to recover the elderly person’s losses and to protect them going forward.
SI Elder Law Helps Recover Seniors’ Funds Lost to Financial Abuse
Obtaining restitution after an elderly citizen has been finically exploited is much more likely with experienced legal assistance like the attorneys of SI Elder Law can provide.
Our attorneys have decades of experience assisting seniors in Southern Illinois with a variety of financial issues, including cases of financial abuse and embezzlement. We’ll work to recover all funds lost to financial exploitation. If a loved one of yours is no longer capable of handling their finances, we can counsel you about steps to protect them and their assets in the future, as well.
Our legal services include establishing wills and powers of attorney, which enables us to identify irregularities in these instruments in financial abuse investigations. In addition to our experience and dedication, we work with forensic accountants to analyze financial records and identify not only losses but unrealized gains caused by theft, embezzlement or other exploitation.
If you have concerns that a loved one of yours is the victim of financial exploitation, contact SI Elder Law for help today. We provide free initial consultations in cases of suspected financial abuse of Southern Illinois residents.