Financial Elder Abuse – Identify and Protect
How common is financial elder abuse? If you detect any sudden changes in a loved one’s financial situation which may indicate exploitation, you should be very concerned and consider getting involved. Sudden changes include unexplained withdrawals of large sums, large credit card transactions, abrupt changes in the Will or other financial documents, a sudden transfer of assets to a family member or acquaintance, complaints of stolen or misplaced credit cards or pension checks, or a recent acquaintance who suddenly takes up residence with elder person, or re-direct the older person’s mail. The information provided below will acknowledge the existence of elder abuse, identify some laws that were designed to protect elders and where to turn to report and help a possible victim. We at Strohschein Law Group help dozens of elder abuse victims each year. If you feel that legal support is the next step in protecting a loved one do not hesitate to call 630-377-3241.
Prevalence and Incidence
Prevalence refers to the total number of people who have experienced abuse, neglect or exploitation, whereas Incidence is the number of new cases identified or reported at a given point in time (usually a year).
Did you know that best “estimates” indicate that between 1 and 2 million Americans 65 and older have been abused, neglected or exploited by someone they depend on for care? Reports estimate overall reporting of financial exploitation at only 1 in 25 cases, suggesting there may be at least 5 million more financial abuse victims annually. Instances of fraud perpetrated by strangers compromised 51% of reported abuse. Abuse by family, friends and neighbors came in second. Instances of elder financial elder abuse are far higher than previously reported and reveal that the highest rate of any type of elder abuse was financial.
The National Elder Abuse Incidence Study shows less than 14% of cases of elder abuse are reported and substantiated, and 70% to 86% of cases are unreported to the Adult Protective Services. Almost four times as many new incidents of abuse, neglect and/or self-neglect were unreported than those that were reported. Financial elder abuse often involves other forms of psychological/emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse and exploitation.
Existing Laws to Protect and Prevent
The Elder Justice Act (EJA), enacted as part of the Patient Protections and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) on March 23, 2010, sets forth a series of provisions designed to address some of the weaknesses in federal and state statutes to prevent and respond to abuse, neglect, and exploitation of older people. The EJA included authorization of several grant programs, such as a new state formula grant program for adult protective services (APS), established requirements for reporting of crimes in long-term care facilities and created advisory bodies on elder abuse within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Versions of the EJA had been considered by Congress for a number years before its enactment in PPACA. However, Congress has not yet approved appropriations for the EJA. http://www.nhpf.org/library/the-basics/Basics_ElderJustice_11-30-10.pdf
The Elder Abuse Victims Act, a bill to better protect, serve, and advance the rights of victims of elder abuse and exploitation by establishing a program to encourage states and other qualified entities to create jobs designed to hold offenders accountable, enhance the capacity of the justice system to investigate, pursue, and prosecute elder abuse cases, identify existing resources to leverage to the extent possible, and assure data collection, research, and evaluation to promote the efficacy and efficiency of the activities described in this Act. This bill was introduced on March 2, 2011, in a previous session of Congress, but was not enacted. http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/112/s462
The Senior Financial Empowerment Act was intended to prevent mail, telemarketing, and Internet fraud targeting seniors in the United States and educate the public, seniors, their families and their caregivers about how to identify and combat fraudulent activity. This bill was introduced in a previous session of Congress and was passed by the House on July 29, 2010 but was never passed by the Senate. http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/111/hr3040
Illinois State Laws include statutes that strip inheritance rights of those who commit elder financial abuse as well as increased number of prosecutor and law enforcement officer training programs, and voluntary professional reporting requirement (lawyers not mandated to report neglect and abuse).
Recognition and Reporting
- Call abuse hotline or APS office.
- Emergencies will be forwarded to police or emergency medical staff.
- Priority response time assigned depending on victim risk.
- Caseworker assigned for investigation.
- Support from APS
- Caseworker develops a plan of service after consent obtained.
- Services can be provided directly by caseworker, arrangement with community resources, or purchased by APS on an emergency, short-term basis. (home repair, meals, home health services, transportation, medical and mental health support)
- When Victim Refuses
- Victim has right to refuse services or investigation by APS (in some states), if he/she has the capacity to understand his/her situation.
- Caseworker may refer to other services, and then close case.
- Reporting Contact Information
- Illinois Consumer Fraud Hotline: 1-800-386-5438; TTY: 1-800-964-3013
- Illinois ID Theft Hotline: 1-866-999-5630; TTY: 1-877-844-5461
- Illinois Senior Fraud Hotline: 1-800-243-5377; TTY: 1-800=964-3013
- Illinois Senior Medicare Patrol: -1-800-699-9043 or www.illinoissmp.org
- Senior Services Associates, Inc. – 1-847-741-0404