We'd all like to think that, as we grow older, the financial resources we worked so hard to build and save will be available when we need them. Sadly, many seniors across Texas end up losing their life savings due to financial exploitation -- especially those with physical or mental vulnerabilities.
As the loved one of a vulnerable elder, you're in a prime position to protect him or her from financial abuse. Below are two common ways that seniors get taken advantage of.
1. Scams targeting elders
Countless promising-sounding scams prey on elders, taking advantage of victims' generosity, mental incapacity or lack of financial savvy. These fraudulent schemes can take many forms, including:
- Fake lottery winnings or prize giveaways
- Phony fundraising solicitations
- Deceptive credit offers or financial services
- Funeral, cremation and cemetery scams
By the time your loved one realizes he or she has been conned, it may be too late to recover the money. The perpetrators may also have gained private personal and financial information they can turn around and sell -- or use to commit identity theft.
2. Gold-digging family members
As prevalent as large-scale scams may be, they account for only a small percentage of elder financial abuse. Shockingly, the more common culprits are family members and close friends. One study found that seemingly trustworthy loved ones were responsible for financial elder abuse 60 percent of the time. Their position as caregivers often gives them access to the victim's financial resources, making it easy for the abuse to go undetected.
Many factors can contribute to a situation that is ripe for financial abuse, including:
- Over-dependence on the perpetrator
- Isolation from other seniors and family members
- Fear of getting sent to a nursing home
- Problems with confusion, dementia or mental capacity
- Sudden changes to a power of attorney, will or other legal documents
How to put a stop to abuse
To minimize the risk of financial abuse, it's important for family members to keep close tabs on the situation. Regularly reviewing your loved one's finances -- and making sure that he or she has a broad network of support beyond just a single person -- can go a long way toward preventing exploitation.
If you notice any signs of suspicious activity, you should take action. Report your concerns to Texas Adult Protective Services and get help from an experienced elder law attorney.