Financial exploitation of the elderly

Posted: July 9th, 2014 | Author: Elizabeth H. Klampert Blog
Categories: Uncategorized

The topic of elder abuse makes people very uncomfortable.  Unfortunately, it is on the rise in the United States.  Elder abuse can take many forms and is often perpetrated by family members, which is why it is often underreported.  In fact, one study estimates that only 1 in 14 cases of elder crime is ever reported.

Elder abuse is not just physical abuse or neglect, but can also be financial exploitation, a growing menace.  In 2011, Mickey Rooney, the film star, publicized his financial elder abuse at the hands of  his own relatives.  After a lawsuit was filed on his behalf in 2011, he was awarded a $2.8-million judgment against his abusers in October 2013.

Mr. Rooney’s high profile shone a light on this issue and, as a result, both Congress and a number of states introduced legislation to combat financial exploitation of the elderly.  The Elder Protection and Abuse Prevention Act (HR 3090), was introduced in Congress in 2012 and reintroduced in September 2013.  This bill would expand the definition of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation, as well as incorporate elder abuse prevention trainings, screenings, and reporting protocols into all senior service access points that receive federal funding under the bill.

On the state level, a number of bills were introduced during the 2013-14 legislative session.  The legislatures in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire and West Virginia all passed bills dealing with financial exploitation of the elderly and their respective governors signed them into law earlier this year.

On the New York State front, ten bills dealing with financial exploitation of the elderly were introduced during 2013-14.  One of those bills, Senate Bill 7188, passed both houses and was returned to the Senate on June 11, 2014.  This bill allows, with the consent of the prosecutor, a caregiver to accompany a vulnerable elderly person who is testifying before a grand jury.  It is likely to be signed into law by Governor Cuomo later this year.  The others are likely to be dealt with in the next legislative session, so stay tuned.

How can people protect themselves?  For New York residents, the brochure, Smart Seniors: Smart Investors, published by the Attorney General’s office, would be a great start.  Here are some “quick tips” from the brochure:

  1. Never give your financial information to someone you don’t know or who contacts you.
  2. Get it in writing.
  3. Ask questions of the salesperson contacting you.
  4. End the conversation.
  5. Don’t feel indebted to someone who gives you “unsolicited” financial advice.
  6. Don’t invest in something you don’t understand.
  7. Don’t be duped into a fraudulent reverse mortgage.
  8. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket (diversify!).
  9. Never make a check payable to an individual.
  10. Err on the side of reporting – if you think you are a victim of abuse, report it and file a complaint.



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