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Financial Exploitation (Fraud) by Spouse
John, 68, and Bernice, 65, had a “second marriage.” John worked as an engineer and Bernice stayed home. Jointly, they had purchased 22 acres with a second home for their retirement. Trying to mend poor relationships with her sons from her first marriage, Bernice asked John to add one son to the property deed. He agreed. While John was on a business trip, Bernice faxed John the last three pages of the deed for his signature. He signed and returned the form. Unknowingly, he had signed a form deeding the entire property to Bernice who then “gifted” the property to her son. John contacted a lawyer.
Financial Exploitation (Identity Theft) by Adult Child
Joseph and Malvina, both 80 and retired, had taken in their daughter after her release from prison. Soon after she moved in, the couple received one credit card bill for $8,347, another for $12,694, and a third for $10,012. The couple had no idea their daughter had used their credit cards or that she had opened additional credit card accounts in her mother’s name. Now, Joseph and Malvina were faced with significant debt. The couple’s other adult child contacted Adult Protective Services (APS), the credit card company and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Financial Exploitation (Theft) by Guardian/Conservator
Monte, 82, had moderate dementia and required guardianship due to his worsening disease. Unfortunately, Monte had never given his only son, Samson, Power of Attorney. Monte also no longer had sufficient mental capacity to execute a power of attorney for Samson, who now lived out of state. Monte’s personal assistant, John, handled all of Monte’s financial transactions for him. Samson was concerned about John’s access to his father’s finances and reviewed Monte’s account statements while visiting his father over the summer. Samson discovered that several times John had taken over $3000 from one of Monte’s little used accounts. Samson contacted the investment firm, local law enforcement and Adult Protective Services (APS) for help.
Financial Exploitation (Misuse of a Power of Attorney) by Relative
Russell, 88, needed help managing his day-to-day affairs. His nephew, Jack was out of work and offered to come and live with Russell and help him while Jack looked for a job. Jack took his uncle to the bank saying he wanted to protect Russell’s money. Russell told the bank teller to add Jack to his bank accounts. Jack then downloaded a power of attorney (POA) form from the Internet and had Russell sign it. With the POA, Russell’s credit card company added Jack as a second user to his credit card. When Russell's sister visited him, she asked about the situation. Russell told her that he thought their nephew was stealing his money. She and Russell went to the bank and learned that Jack had spent a considerable amount of his uncle’s money. The sister alerted bank officials, Adult Protective Services (APS) and local law enforcement. Russell filed for an emergency civil protective order to have Jack removed from his home.
Financial Exploitation (Theft) by Friend
Ya, 84, became friends with Michelle, 72, in a computer class at the senior center. Using her own computer, Michelle established an online account to help Ya pay her bills. However, Michelle wrote checks for some of her own bills as well as for Ya’s bills. Ya was unaware that Michelle was writing checks for herself until she saw a returned check made out to a cell phone company. Ya didn’t own a cell phone. When she checked her account, Ya discovered that most of her money was gone. Ya contacted local law enforcement and asked her bank to investigate.
Financial Exploitation (Promises Exchanged) by Acquaintance
Barbara, 76, a retired high-ranking federal government employee, was independent and lived alone. She was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and knew she would need more help in the future. Barbara asked Margie, a former neighbor, who was recently divorced, to move in with her. Over time, they agreed that Margie would care for Barbara in her old age and that in return, Barbara would provide Margie’s with food and housing. Barbara gave Margie her power of attorney for access to all her accounts and named her the sole beneficiary of her investment portfolio. After a several months, Barbara noticed her accounts were almost empty and called local law enforcement which also notified Adult Protective Services (APS).
Financial Exploitation (Inappropriate Products) by Investment Broker
Jackie was a successful investment broker. She had a reputation for making her clients wealthy. Recently Julio, 80, asked Jackie for financial advice. She recommended investments that had high growth potential but were risky for older adults. When Julio’s daughter reviewed his investment portfolio, she found he had investments that wouldn’t provide a return for 30 years and would do Julio little good. Julio contacted the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to check the background of financial professionals, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Adult Protective Services (APS).
Financial Exploitation (Investment Fraud) by Financial Advisor
Millie, 63, was a public school cafeteria worker who saved for retirement and wanted to help her grandson go to college. A friend recommended Tom, a polite, outgoing financial adviser. Millie didn’t understand the stock market but, after attending a retirement seminar, trusted Tom to invest her money. When she wanted to give her grandson money for college, Millie learned most of the money she had invested was gone. Tom had created fake account statements that showed Millie was making money. Millie contacted Tom’s company and reported him to the Attorney General and Adult Protective Services (APS) in her state.
Financial Exploitation (Investment Fraud) by Tax Preparer
Alex, an accountant, gave discounts for tax preparation to clients who were over age 65. He built a clientele of wealthy older single adults, widows or widowers, and found ways to get them tax refunds. Many of Alex’s clients gave him Power of Attorney; he also served as their financial adviser. Upon request, Alex gave his clients a statement of their account. Otherwise, he called clients with good news about their investments or about tax loopholes that he took advantage of for the client. When a client’s son learned the deed to his father’s house was in Alex’s name, he looked into his father’s finances and discovered Alex controlled all of his father’s assets. The client’s son contacted the Attorney General, IRS and Adult Protective Services (APS) in his father’s state.
Financial Exploitation (Forgery) by Professional Caregiver
Amarjit, 91, paid his own bills. When he opened his bank statement, he noticed four $150 checks had been made out to his home health aide. He knew he had not written or signed the checks. Amarjit contacted his bank and local law enforcement.
Financial Exploitation (Improperly Obtained Power of Attorney) by Professional Caregiver
Roman, 84, was bedridden. He hired Bob to provide caregiving services. Soon after, Bob forged Roman’s signature to create a fake Power of Attorney (POA) that gave Bob the power to act in Roman’s place. Using this illegal Power of Attorney, the bank allowed Bob to put his name on Roman’s savings and checking accounts. Bob explained to the bank that Roman agreed to the change but couldn’t be present because he was bedridden. Bob later put his own home address name on Roman’s accounts. Roman became concerned when he stopped receiving monthly statements from the bank. Roman contacted the bank immediately and local law enforcement.
Financial Exploitation (Fraud) by Representative Payee
Carollee appeared to take good care of the older adults, including veterans, who lived in the group home where she worked. Because most of the residents were disabled and had no family to represent them, Carollee became the representative payee for their Social Security and Veteran’s Benefits. The regular postal carrier became curious when he started delivering over 30 envelopes from Social Security and Veteran’s Benefits to Carollee’s home each month. He thought she lived alone so he notified the local postal inspector through the US Postal Inspection Service hotline, Veterans Affairs, and Adult Protective Services (APS).
Financial Exploitation (Inappropriate Product) by Mortgage Broker
John, 68, wanted to provide for his wife, Vickie, 62, and leave money for his children when he died. He and his wife thought their home would provide this economic security after they both retired. Less than a year after his retirement, John had a massive stroke and died. Vickie contacted a mortgage broker whose ad she saw in a local magazine. The mortgage broker persuaded Vickie, who had been diagnosed with dementia, to sign a reverse mortgage on her house. Vickie’s daughter learned of the transaction and contacted local law enforcement and Vickie’s mortgage lender.
Financial Exploitation (Internet Identity Theft) by Stranger
Naira, 71, was single, disabled and retired. When she got an email from her bank requesting verification of her account numbers, Naira complied. Later she opened an email that she thought was from a government official investigating Medicare fraud. The email asked her to provide her Medicare number to verify that there was no fraud on her account. When her bank manager called to confirm that she wanted to close her accounts, Naira learned the money in her savings and checking accounts was gone. She told the bank manager about the bank email and he told her that it must have been a scam. When she explained how she’d given her Medicare number after the second email, the bank manager contacted the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Adult Protective Services (APS).
Financial Exploitation (Fraud) by New Sweetheart
Arturo was a popular hair stylist. He was charming and attentive to widows and older women and often asked clients who seemed well-off out to dinner. During these meals, Arturo discussed his financial woes. Some customers gave him their bank account information and put him on their accounts “just in case.” Arturo helped three of these wealthy women manage their real estate investments. Two of them even made him a joint owner of their homes. When one customer died, the executor discovered her bank and investment accounts were depleted, her home now belonged to Arturo, and heirlooms were missing. The executor contacted Adult Protective Services (APS), local law enforcement and the FBI.
Financial Exploitation (Grandparent Scam) by Stranger
Charlie, 82, received a phone call from a “sheriff” in New Orleans. He said Charlie’s grandson had been arrested for intoxication. To be released, the sheriff said that someone needed to pay the grandson’s fine and that his parents were not home. The sheriff told Charlie to wire money to an online address. After the money was delivered, Charlie got a call from someone he thought was his grandson saying that he needed money to get home from New Orleans. Charlie became suspicious when he asked the person claiming to be his grandson a few personal questions that he couldn’t answer. The call ended amicably. Then Charlie called a nearby Federal Bureau of Investigation field office to report the incident and filed a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center online.
Financial Exploitation (Home Repair Scam) by Stranger
At 83, Shirley, who was a retired lawyer now lived alone after the death of her husband. It had become difficult to keep up repairs on her house. One day a handyman she’d never seen before rang her doorbell and told her the gutters on her house needed to be cleaned and that she might need a new roof. Because she didn’t have anyone else to help her with these tasks, Shirley paid him $500 to clean the gutters and an additional $10,000 as a down payment for a new roof. She never saw the handyman again. She told a neighbor what had happened and the neighbor contacted Adult Protective Services (APS), local law enforcement, and the state’s consumer protection agency within the Attorney General’s office.
Financial Exploitation (Lottery Scam) by Stranger
Armando, 78, was thrilled when someone from the lottery called to confirm he had won $10,000. The person on the phone said that they would send the money after Armando sent a winner's fee of $500. Thinking only about what he would do with the winnings, he wired the $500 “winner’s fee” to the address the caller provided. Because he did not receive the promised lottery winnings after a month, he contacted the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Did This Happen to You or Someone You Know?
- Has anyone taken or spent your money without your permission?
- Has anyone sold or used things that belonged to you without your permission? This could include your bank or credit cards, your checks, your personal property or your documents.
- Has anyone made you sign legal documents you didn’t understand?
- Has anyone forced, convinced or misled you to give them something that belonged to you? This could include a bank account, a credit card, a deed to a house, personal property, or other documents.
- Has anyone pretended to be you to obtain goods or money?
- Has anyone kept money from you that belonged to you?
- Has anyone stopped you from using your own money or kept information about your money from you?
Warning Signs of Financial Exploitation Include:
- Sudden changes in bank accounts or banking practices, including an unexplained withdrawal of large sums of money by a person accompanying the elder
- The inclusion of additional names on an elder's bank signature card
- Unauthorized withdrawal of the elder's funds using the elder's ATM card
- Abrupt changes in a will or other financial documents
- Unexplained disappearance of funds or valuable possessions
- Substandard care being provided or bills left unpaid despite the availability of adequate financial resources
- Discovery of an elder's signature being forged for financial transactions or for the titles of his/her possessions
- Sudden appearance of previously uninvolved relatives claiming their rights to an elder's property or possessions
- Unexplained sudden transfer of assets to a family member or someone outside the family
- The provision of services that are not necessary
- An elder's report of financial exploitation.