Sadly, elder abuse and neglect is a widespread problem in the United States. Worse still, it is a growing problem. As the older population in the U.S. continues to grow at an unprecedented rate, predators who prey on the vulnerable among us are specifically targeting the elderly. Financial exploitation of the elderly is one specific type of elder abuse that lawmakers and public officials are trying to prevent by warning seniors about tactics used by criminals. Toward that end, North Carolina’s Secretary of State Elaine Marshall recently spoke to senior citizens about the dangers of financial crime and elder financial abuse at an anti-fraud workshop in Whiteville, North Carolina.
Marshall was one of several speakers that talked about ways to prevent identity theft from happening, as well as recognizing when a scammer is calling. Columbus County Sheriff Lewis Hatcher said there is a new way that police can tell if a certain phone number is a scam. “There’s certain numbers with area codes that we get calls from and victims come in say, ‘Hey I got a call from this number.’ We always record those numbers and the detectives actively call these numbers which in nine times out of ten, no one answers,” Hatcher explained. Secretary of State Marshall also took the time to speak to residents about her role as Secretary of State and how she is dedicated to cracking down on financial crime. Not surprisingly, Marshall told listeners that the numbers indicate that financial crimes, particularly against the elderly, are occurring far too often. “That was over $91 million stolen and not everyone comes forward to claim that they have lost money so that was a lot of victims, 707 victims here in a one year period of time, so you can figure that out. That’s basically two a day that we know about. Sometimes people don’t come forward. So it is not rare, in fact it is way too common,” Marshall said.
Along with educating potential victims, Marshall indicated that steps are being taken to educate judges with regard to the serious nature of financial offenses. The hope is that once judges understand that financial crimes are serious crimes as well, they will start applying that concept to the sentencing process. In closing, Sheriff Hatcher urged listeners to report to the police if they are contacted by someone asking for money or attempting to run what might be a financial scam over the telephone or in person.
Financial Abuse of the Elderly
Abuse and neglect of the elderly comes in a number of forms, including financial abuse. In fact, experts believe that financial abuse of the elderly is the most common form of elder abuse. Seniors are particularly susceptible to financial scams and abuse for several reasons. First, they tend to be more trusting than their younger counterparts. Second, they are not as familiar with technology and are, therefore, tricked easier in many cases. Finally, elder victims are far less likely to admit they have been scammed, making them ideal targets for scammers.
Although precise figures are difficult to come by, in part because victims are reluctant to report the abuse, experts believe that there are over five million incidents of financial abuse or exploitation of the elderly every year. Moreover, they believe that for every one financial scam hat is reported by a senior, as many as 25 go unreported. Sadly, the “predators” in these scams are not always strangers. All too often it is family members who exploit seniors by misappropriating funds, or downright stealing, from an elderly parent or other family member.
If you are a caregiver, family member, or loved one, of an elderly individual the best thing you can do to prevent financial abuse is to discuss the problem openly. Explain to your loved one how scams often operate and how to avoid becoming the victim of one. If necessary, consider pursuing guardianship over your loved one to ensure that his/her finances and assets are safe.
If you have additional questions about financial abuse of the elderly in the State of North Carolina contact the experienced estate planning attorneys at The Law Offices of Cheryl David by calling 336-547-9999 to schedule an appointment.