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Elder Financial Abuse

Our office is getting an increasing number of inquiries about elder financial abuse. Recurring situations include misuse of a power of attorney, and someone convincing the elder person to give them money.

David Walker, Attorney at Law

A power of attorney can be very helpful for management of the finances of an elder person. Often a power of attorney is given to a relative to handle banking, and pay bills. The holder of the power of attorney has a strict legal duty not to misuse the elder’s resources. Powers can be abused because of easy access to the elder’s assets. This can vary from outright taking of money to using the assets to pay their own bills.

A recent case involved two sisters, one holding a power of attorney from their mother. The sister holding the power of attorney moved the mother to Georgia from another state. That sister then removed $150,000 from the mother’s account and placed it in her account. A letter to the sister holding the money, threatening a lawsuit and possible prosecution, was enough to have the money returned.

In other cases, elderly women were befriended by strangers who gained trust and then convinced the elderly person to provide money. One of the “friends” was a middle-aged man with multiple convictions for theft by deception and similar charges. He convinced the elderly lady to provide a credit card, a rental vehicle and cash. The elderly lady was lonely and not at her best mentally. She became easy prey for this professional fraudster. The “friend” was wanted in another county for the same type of offense. A meeting was arranged with the “friend” at a car rental office to renew the vehicle lease. He was unaware that the police were notified and they arrested the fraudster. This was a good step but recovery of resources can be a difficult task.

Victims of such scams can be ashamed or confused and not want to admit what is going on. Relatives of the elderly should be vigilant and look into any change in spending habits or new “friends” who seem to take an unusually strong interest in being friendly, in an unusually short time.