Elder financial abuse is a particularly emotionally devastating occurrence, because more likely than not, it’s been committed by someone who knows the victim. The Los Angeles branch of Adult Protective Services reports that about 90% of their cases involve allegations that a family member has financially abused an elder. This all-too-frequent occurrence can be difficult to detect for numerous reasons and even more emotionally complicated to pursue, but understanding the signs and knowing where to turn for help is critical to protecting this vulnerable population.
Elder financial abuse—broadly defined as the illegal or improper use of the funds, property, or assets of people 65 and older by family, friends, neighbors, and strangers—costs older people and their families billions of dollars. Up to five million older Americans are abused every year, and the annual loss by victims of financial abuse is estimated to be at least $36.5 billion according to the National Council on Aging. It can come in the form of theft, fraud, misuse of a person’s assets or credit, or use of undue influence to gain control of an older person’s money or property. Ultimately, elder financial abuse is a crime that deprives older adults of their resources and ultimately their independence.
While unscrupulous large-scale scammers are launching new fraud campaigns against the elderly every day, a large number of perpetrators are actually people who are close to the victim. In the case of the former, advances in technology can make it difficult for elderly people to know who to trust and what’s financially safe. In the case of the latter, family members, caretakers, or other personal representatives take advantage of their privileged access to a senior’s finances.
California Welfare and Institutions Code §15600 protects all adults ages 65 or older, and all dependent adults, from various types of abuse and neglect. While reporting elder financial abuse is generally the first step, it is not a legal remedy for it. If a victim or their loved one wants to be justly compensated or recoup their losses, they will need to hire a good elder abuse attorney to file a civil suit against the offender.
In California, the statute of limitations for elder financial abuse is generally four years from when the plaintiff discovered or should have discovered, the abuse. However, if the financial abuse is current and ongoing, the statute of limitations doesn’t apply.
Warning signs of elder financial abuse include money unexpectedly missing from accounts, excessive withdrawals or credit card use, forged checks, unpaid bills, and missing property. If any of these warning signs are present, it may be important to contact an attorney as soon as possible. However, despite the abuse, the victim might be hesitant to press charges against someone they know. So, what are the options and who can you trust if not your own family?
In California, for criminal offenses such as theft, embezzlement, and other financial fraud, jail time can range from a few months up to four years. However, elder financial abuse can also be pursued as a civil matter which would eliminate the possibility of jail time and a criminal record for the abuser.
To find out all your options, and work with someone you can trust, contact the experienced attorneys at Velasco Law Group. Our attorneys are sympathetic to how emotionally difficult financial disputes can be and are uniquely equipped to get you results as quickly and painlessly as possible. If you suspect you or a loved one has fallen victim to elder financial abuse, contact the Velasco Law Group here.