Whether you are a senior, or are a loved one of a senior, the issue of elder abuse and neglect is something you cannot ignore. Financial abuse of the elderly, in particular, is something you need to understand in order to prevent becoming a victim. While elder abuse is not a new problem in the U.S., it is a rapidly growing problem. Financial exploitation of the elderly is the most common type of elder abuse.
How Common Is Elder Financial Abuse?
It is a shame that instances of elder abuse and neglect have increased dramatically in recent years. Unfortunately, such situations are expected to continue increasing. Financial abuse is, by far, the most common type of elder abuse. But it is important to note that accurate figures relating to elder abuse are difficult to obtain for several reasons:
- Reporting systems vary widely throughout the States, making the collection of data difficult.
- Many victims are ashamed or embarrassed and, therefore, do not report the abuse.
- Victims of elder abuse frequently depend on the abuser, and the fear of reprisal prevents them from reporting the abuse.
Nevertheless, experts believe that there are at least 5 million instances of financial abuse or exploitation of the elderly each year in the U.S. As the older population continues to grow in the U.S., the frequency with which elder financial abuse occurs will continue to increase as well.
Why Are the Elderly Targeted?
Although the causes of other types of elder abuse are complex, it is not as difficult to explain why older individuals are so often targets of financial abuse. The terrible truth is that elders frequently make lucrative, easy targets because:
- People over the age of 50 control over 70% of the nation’s wealth.
- Older individuals tend to be more trusting and predictable.
- Seniors often do not know the true value of their assets, particularly when the asset is real property.
- Many elderly victims suffer from dementia and/or other physical or mental disabilities.
- Older individuals are much less likely to be technologically savvy.
How Can You Prevent Financial Abuse of a Senior?
The good news is that there are a number of steps you can take to help prevent becoming the victim of financial abuse yourself and/or to help an elderly loved one avoid victimization by the unscrupulous predators who prey on them. For example:
- Educate yourself and discuss financial abuse. Preventing any type of abuse starts with acknowledging that it happens and educating yourself to the warning signs. If you are a senior, talk to your peers about the issue. If you are the loved one of an elderly individual, have a frank and open discussion about the issue.
- Protect personal information. Victims of elder financial abuse often lose entire retirement nest eggs in the blink of an eye because they failed to protect their personal information. Frequently, the problem stems from not understanding current technology and not realizing how far a scam artist can go with just a few scraps of personal information. Never give out your personal information, including date of birth, Social Security number, credit card numbers etc., to anyone over the phone or computer.
- Avoid isolation. Those who prey on elderly victims frequently look seniors who are already isolated or who they can easily move into a position of isolation. Isolated victims often grows dependent on the perpetrator, which could increase the amount of assets that can be stolen and decreases the odds that the victim will report the abuse.
- Plan for the possibility of incapacity. There is a chance that you will end up incapacitated at some point during your retirement years. Incapacity could make you an easier target of financial exploitation. To protect yourself, plan ahead by including incapacity planning in your overall estate plan. Decide now who will take over your finances and control your assets if you are unable to control them yourself at some point down the road. Planning ahead can reduce the possibility of a perpetrator targeting you based on your incapacity.
Contact Houston Elder Law Attorneys
For more information about elder financial abuse, contact the experienced Houston elder law attorneys at The Mendel Law Firm, L.P. by calling 281-759-3213 to schedule your appointment today.
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