Keeping Your Parents Safe from Financial Exploitation

One major concern for vulnerable older adults is financial exploitation.  Almost daily, we hear stories of older adults being taken advantage of or falling for a financial scheme. Financial exploitation of older adults is pervasive, expensive, and difficult to detect.  As NPR reported,  “as we get older, we become more vulnerable to fraud in so many of its forms.”

Strangers and “New Friends”

We are often afraid of strangers and schemers. Bogus lotteries, sweetheart swindles, grandparent scams, fake charities, home repair fraud, IRS back taxes schemes, identity theft, etc., are common scams. Not knowing if a stranger or “new friend” could deceive your parent  worries many adult children.

Trusted Persons

Even though the exploitation by strangers are the most commonly highlighted stories in the news, they are not the only criminals. Family, close friends, and caregivers are most likely to be the perpetrators of exploitation.  These known persons are often guilty of using “the resources of an older individual for monetary or personal benefit, profit, or gain, or that results in depriving an older individual of rightful access to, or use of, benefits, resources, belongings, or assets.” ( Older American Act, 42 U.S.C.A. § 3002.)

Authorizing the Exploitation

It is mystifying to many of us that many cases of financial exploitation occur with the victim’s knowledge. A 2015 study (True Link Financial, The True Link Report on Elder Financial Abuse 2015) found that many instances of exploitation are “done openly with the claimed consent of the victim.” The vulnerable older adult may be tricked into buying a fraudulent product, paying exorbitant fees, believing in a foreign lottery scheme, or trusting that they owe money to the criminal contacting them. In many cases, the older adult willingly gave the criminal access to their resources.

Protecting Aging Parents

Financial exploitation can be avoided by the right level of oversight and support.  Your aging parent may need you to be vigilant and involved in their financial affairs.  This does not mean that your aging parent needs you to take over their financial affairs or remove their power.  Creating a regular check-in system where you look over their bank accounts and question suspicious activity may provide the right intervention.  You may even ask that your parent not pay a new person or new bill without first consulting you.  Coach them to tell all solicitors, “I have to talk to my daughter about this. Please leave me your contact information, and we’ll be back in touch.” Together, you and your aging parent can create the protective barriers to exploitation while also maintaining your parent’s autonomy and dignity.

Taking Legal Steps

To get fully set up to help your parents with their financial affairs, you will want to complete a few legal steps. Your parent should complete a General Durable Power of Attorney for Financial and Property Matters that complies with the laws in the state where they live. You can read more about Georgia’s Power of Attorney here. You also may want your parent to make you a power of attorney on each of their bank and financial accounts and give you access to their records (either through paper statements or online accounts).

Hiring the Right Counsel

Knowing how to properly step in and help your aging parent with their financial affairs can seem daunting.  The right counsel from a Certified Elder Law Attorney can help you create the best plan to protect your aging parent and to protect you. The attorneys at Hurley Elder Care Law are experienced experts in providing the right direction to families facing aging challenges. Our phone consultations are always complimentary. Please call us at (404) 843-0121 to get started. You can also reach out to us via our online contact form.