Check out our Webinar Replay about the social and legal aspects of Elder Exploitation.
According to NC law, elder exploitation is defined as “the illegal or improper use of a disabled adult or his resources for another’s profit or advantage”. Millions of Americans fall prey to financial schemes to take their money each year. The elderly are often most at risk due to their financial status of possibly owning a house or having money in the bank. Often health issues, disabilities, or living alone can contribute to being taken advantage of. Identifying and remedying the financial abuse of the elderly is to care for the older generation of people in your own life.
Let’s explore some basic questions of how to prevent this type of behavior in our state. Our elderly deserve to be treated with basic human rights and respect just like everyone else.
An Unreported Crime
One of the biggest issues that encourages elder exploitation is that many of these crimes go unreported. In NC, it is required by law to report any elderly adult who is struggling with abuse or exploitation and needs help. NC law states that “any person having reasonable cause to believe that a disabled adult is in need of protective services shall report such information.”
These crimes also go unreported because the elderly person may be embarrassed that they were taken advantage of. They do not want their acquaintances or family to worry about them. They also do not want to lose the respect of the younger generations. Often, they would rather live with the awful consequences of losing retirement savings or being the target of identity theft than admit that they did not realize what was happening.
Types of Financial Abuse
There are many types of fraud and financial abuse perpetrated on the elderly. Below are some types of exploitation of elderly people that are common in NC. According to the American Association of Retired Persons, “Financial abuse can take many forms, ranging from investment scams, bogus lottery schemes and stolen jewelry to identity theft, credit card misuse and forged checks. Sadly, most perpetrators of financial abuse aren’t strangers.” Other types of exploitation can include: Medicaid fraud, embezzlement, scams by robo-call, phone, text, email, or social media and in-person scams.
If you have older people in your life that you care about, talk with them about the types of scams and how to prevent being taken advantage of. Knowing what to look out for and keeping an eye on their day to day lives can also help you spot scams or other types of financial abuse.
The Most Vulnerable
According to the National Center on Elder Abuse- NCEA, elderly persons who do not use social services, need ADL assistance, are in poor health, or have no spouse or partner can be targeted most often. If your parent is living alone and is in poor health, it is imperative that you pay attention to their financial situation.
Offer to help pay bills or look at their day to day expenses and see where their money is going. Attend medical, social services, or financial counseling appointments with them and keep your eyes open to the people they associate with or see regularly. Also pay attention to the service people around them such as massage therapists, groundskeepers, health aides, elder care workers, home repair workers and any people or situations that make you feel uncomfortable. It is your turn to step into the protective and caring role now.
Who are the Perpetrators?
The NCEA also surmises from data that perpetrators of exploitative acts are often adult children or spouses, tend to be male, unemployed, under stress, or have financial difficulties. Many have history of or current substance abuse issues, mental or physical health problems, and a history of trouble with the police. They cite a study of 4,156 older adults in which family members were the most common perpetrators of exploitation followed by friends and neighbors and then by home care aides.
Protecting Basic Human Rights
The burden to keep our elderly population taken care of is on each of us. We all need to work together to keep our communities safe for the elderly population. Many law firms and community organizations are at the forefront of this movement.
It is up to each of us to help those in our community who cannot help themselves. If you believe that an elderly person is being taken advantage of but are unsure how to report it, contact a knowledgeable counselor to walk you through the options you have. Remember that not reporting something that seems wrong in these cases can be a crime.
Seek Wise Counsel
Above all, if you have questions or concerns about the elderly people in your life or about something that is taking place in your own life, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Don’t let embarrassment or lack of knowledge keep you from getting the help you need. An attorney specializing in elder exploitation can be a great resource when we are seeking answers. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you need help.
More Information and Discussion
In our newest webinar replay, we take a look at these questions:
- What’s happening to your Mom or Dad that makes them vulnerable?
- Who is likely to exploit your Mom or Dad and how will they do it?
- What legal rights exist for those who want to remedy the abuse of an elderly person?
Watch our replay about the state of care for the elderly as Nancy Ruffner and Adam Hopler explore this topic. Nancy is a Board Certified Patient Advocate and owner of NAVIGATE NC. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work (BSW) from Western Carolina University and a Graduate Certificate in Counselor Education (GCCE) from NC State University. Adam Hopler is an Attorney and Counselor at law and licensed member of the NC Bar. He helps families and businesses with Wills and Estates, Guardianships, Estate and Civil Litigation, Employment Litigation, and Unemployment Benefits.