Not all elder abuse is physical: older people can be exploited financially, psychologically and emotionally. A report issued earlier this year by the Government Accountability Office found that elder abuse is on the rise, and elder protective service agencies across the country are often not equipped to handle a growing number of elder abuse cases.
The Oregonian recently reported on the prosecution of an Oregon woman who was sentenced to serve 15 months in prison for aggravated theft: she scammed several elderly people out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Multnomah County’s elder financial abuse team was alerted to the scam by a bank manager who noticed unusual activity in one of her elderly customer’s accounts – including several large withdrawals in the form of cashiers’ checks.
In most states, health-care providers and social-service workers are required to report suspected elder abuse to law enforcement, but only a few states include financial professionals in that list, so unusual transactions such as these often go unnoticed. According to The Oregonian,
“The county has successfully prosecuted 110 elder fraud cases in the past year and a half, partly thanks to its team of two adult protective service investigators, a Multnomah County sheriff’s detective, a deputy district attorney and a forensic accountant. The team works closely with Portland’s elder-vulnerable adult unit, and has trained more than 1,000 bank employees, caseworkers and caregivers on how to detect scams, and the elderly on how to protect themselves.”
Consumer Reports has a list of signs of financial exploitation of an elderly person, including:
- Unpaid bills when someone else has been designated to pay them
- Missing property, large or unexplained withdrawals from bank accounts, or transfers between accounts
- Changes in banks or attorneys
- Bank statements and canceled checks no longer coming to the elder’s home
- Unfamiliar signatures on checks and other documents
- Changes in spending patterns, such as buying items the senior doesn’t need
- Lack of personal amenities, such as clean clothes and grooming items