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Financial crimes against the elderly rising

Florida readers with elderly relatives may be interested to know that financial abuse of elders is on the rise. It is a crime that is under-reported with only an estimated 44 percent of cases being reported to authorities. Since 70 percent of the country's wealth is in the hands of people 50 and over, the problem emphasizes how important it is to make sure estate planning documents are in order.

It has been estimated that approximately 30 percent of those who experience financial abuse crimes do so at the hands of a stranger. Another 15 percent of the cases are caused by financial professionals who work for the victim, with the balance being financial crimes committed by family members, caregivers or a friend. Studies have also shown that issues such as drug abuse, gambling, unemployment and a sense of entitlement increase the risk.

In order to help ensure an elderly person isn't taken advantage of, family members should check with the executor or attorney to see if the loved one's will is up to date and in accord with his or her previously-expressed wishes. It is also important to have a health care directive and a financial power of attorney in place, with perhaps a third party named to oversee the person chosen under the power of attorney. A frequent review of bank statements and withdrawals is also advisable, as unusual activity may be a sign of a problem.

Financial abuse of an elderly loved one can lead to emotional and physical problems as well. While there are federal and state laws that offer some degree of protection, family members can take steps to help prevent it from causing further damage.

Source: Nooz Hawk, "Tips for Seniors, Families to Help Prevent Financial Elder Abuse", Luciana Cramer, February 03, 2014

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