I would wager that all of you can remember your first crush after you were no longer living at home. For many of you it was in college. That certain someone who caught your eye…or maybe it was they who first noticed you? The next step may have been to go for a coffee together, maybe study together if it was college…and you remember when you first held hands also, right? If you talked to friends or family, they would ask questions and some of the questions focused on was this a good person, trustworthy, kind, etc. As you recounted what you liked about this someone I suspect you didn’t offer that you gave them a key to your home, the keys to your car or a few thousand dollars because they needed it. That is the difference between your early opportunities to meet someone new and your older loved one’s meeting a “new friend.”
According to the National Council on Aging, as many as five million adults 60 years of age and older are exploited each year, but only about one in fourteen cases of abuse are actually reported to the authorities. How much does this cost older adults? The estimates range widely from $2.9 billion annually to $36.5 billion; it’s a veritable industry in America. Going to another government source, the CDC, elder financial abuse is defined in this way: “The illegal, unauthorized, or improper use of an older individual’s resources by a caregiver or other person in a trusting relationship, for the benefit of someone other than the older individual. This includes depriving an older person of rightful access to, information about, or use of, personal benefits, resources, belongings, or assets.”
What are the signs? Here are a few, but beware, because scammers are very creative:
- A withdrawal from your older loved one’s account that they don’t recall, or maybe don’t want to talk about.
- Your older loved one’s social withdrawal or isolation is easier for a fraudster to exploit, because no one is watching.
- Is someone “looking after” your loved one, but has no other visible means of support?
- Is there a substantial age disparity between your older loved one and the person who has taken an interest in them?
And what to do? There are agencies to which you can turn for advice or intervention:
- Your community’s elder ombudsperson
- The National Center on Elder Abuse
- The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (844.57HELPS)
- Your state chapter of Adult Protective Services
Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.