What You Need to Know About Financial Elder Abuse
According to the National Council on Aging, the financial exploitation of the elderly costs victims approximately $36.5 billion every year.
One out of 10 Americans aged 60 and above have experienced elder abuse, and the most common form of abuse is financial. Differing from elder physical abuse, financial abuse can involve a person who the elderly trust, such as a family member, friend, or care provider. It happens when they control the elderly’s financial obligations or fail to carry out set instructions under the power of attorney.
Financial abuse happens to older adults because they tend to be socially isolated and emotionally or physically unwell. So, what steps should one take if this happens? Here is what you need to know about financial elder abuse and what to do if you or your loved one is being taken advantage of.
Elder Financial Abuse Laws in California
California Welfare and Institutions Code section 15600 protects older adults from different types of neglect and physical abuse. Elder abuse fraud, also known as senior fraud, refers to wrongfully defrauding any person aged 65 or older out of property and money.
The offense can be classified as a felony or misdemeanor and can attract penalties of up to 4 years in prison or jail.
California financial elder abuse is punished similarly to California theft offenses. The penalty is dependent on the value of the property, services, or money that was stolen.
If what was stolen was worth $950 or less, the prosecutor may charge you with a misdemeanor. But if the value was more than $950, it could be a felony or misdemeanor (also referred to as a ”wobbler”)
A misdemeanor attracts these penalties:
- A maximum of twelve months in jail
- A maximum of $1,000 fine
But if convicted of a felony, you face these penalties:
- Formal probation
- Up to four years in the California State Prison
- Up to $10,000 fine
When convicted of burglary in connection with felony financial elder abuse, you risk a ”strike” on your record under California’s Three Strikes Law.
How Financial Elder Abuse Happens
Older adults experience financial abuse due to various reasons. In most cases, you find that the abused elder suffers from mental impairment like Alzheimer’s or dementia. It’s easy for a family member, friend, or caregiver to exploit their finances under these conditions.
But even when the elderly are in perfect health, they can still be victims of financial exploitation, mainly from adult children. It also occurs in assisted living facilities or nursing homes where the nursing staff or caregivers steal the residents’ credit cards or checkbooks. Examples of financial elder abuse include:
- Making fraudulent or unauthorized purchases or withdrawals using the elder’s credit card or ATM
- Not making payments for an elder’s bills that you are supposed to pay
- Not buying necessary items like clothing, medications, food, etc. that you are supposed to purchase
- Making unauthorized changes to the will of the elder or power of attorney.
Most victims fear reporting abuse because they don’t want to lose their independence and be forced into a care facility if their caregiver is found guilty. Senior fraud cases usually remain open because they typically involve older adults who
- have been isolated for years in long-term care or at home to the point that they are afraid to speak out of fear of physical abuse that they will suffer if they tell the truth,
- don’t want a guilty family member to face legal repercussions or
- are ashamed to admit that they have fallen victim to someone’s undue influence or a scam.
How to Report Elder Financial Abuse in California
Determining when to report elder financial abuse can be challenging. It’s normal to feel that the guidelines are subjective, especially when a close friend or family member is involved in the abuse.
The California Department of Justice encourages us to report elderly abuse because it can escalate without intervention. If you suspect or are aware of elderly neglect or abuse, it’s best to reach out to the proper channels. If you have any doubts, reach out to an elder abuse attorney for guidance.
Why You Should Hire an Elder Abuse Lawyer
Individuals who care about their loved ones need to take proper measures to protect them. You should hire an elder abuse attorney if you are an older adult being victimized or suspect an older adult is being abused.
Civic damages may cover the victim’s pain and suffering. Here is why you need to hire a lawyer.
Financial Elder Abuse Law Is Complicated
If you’re not an attorney, you have no business trying to act like one in such circumstances. Even the most experienced lawyers don’t represent themselves in court.
A solid case can quickly go downhill without the help of a trained attorney. Hiring an elder abuse lawyer increases the chances of getting justice because they are experts in that field.
A Lawyer Can Challenge Evidence
It is impossible to tell whether the abuser improperly obtained the evidence presented against you with no legal training. Or, you may also fail to know if the testimony provided by a witness contradicts their earlier statement. But an attorney has the skills to suppress that evidence in your favor.
A Lawyer Will File the Right Documents
Since you have no legal training, you may struggle with protocols and guidelines for filing some legal documents. Incorrect or late filing may derail your case or, worse, the case being thrown out altogether. But a lawyer knows the proper documents to file and will follow the correct legal procedures to win your case.
Choose the Best Financial Elder Abuse Attorney to Help You
Recovering emotionally and mentally from financial elder abuse is a long journey. It is normal to experience embarrassment, humiliation, or shame once you realize you or your loved one has been a victim of financial abuse. For this reason, it’s better to hire an attorney to represent you in court as you heal from the experience.
At the Law Offices of Todd M. Friedman, we help families identify elder financial abuse, end the abuse, and hold the abusers accountable. With more than 20 years of practicing law, we regularly help honest people face a system that is too complicated and too large for them to fight back against.
Contact us today to know more about our services.