The elderly population in America is growing, and with the increase comes more instances of seniors being exploited and abused. In addition to physical and emotional abuse, financial crimes against seniors are increasing with alarming frequency. In 1998, the National Center on Elder Abuse estimated that nearly one-third of all elder abuse cases involved financial exploitation. In 2000, the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging reported $40 billion in losses to telemarketing fraud alone.
The skilled and seasoned Ohio debt-relief attorneys at Fesenmyer Cousino Weinzimmer understand that even the most alert seniors can find themselves financially victimized. We offer a free consultation to evaluate any problems your loved ones may be having.
Why Target the Elderly?
While dementia may sometimes play a role in elder fraud and financial exploitation, according to a survey by AARP, the majority of potential victims are relatively affluent and well-educated. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the elderly are preyed upon by unscrupulous individuals for several reasons:
- Older Americans are most likely to have some savings, own their home and/or have excellent credit which criminals can tap into.
- Older individuals are polite and trusting, thus less likely to say no to a con-man perceived as helpful.
- The elderly are less likely to report a fraud as they don’t want others to think that they no longer have the mental capacity to take care of their own financial affairs.
- Elderly victims often make poor witnesses and can’t supply enough detailed information to investigators.
- The elderly are most likely to jump at products that promise benefits such as increased cognitive function, virility, physical conditioning, and anti-cancer properties. Those suffering from serious illnesses are desperate to believe that a “miracle cure” exists and are most likely to pay for it.
Common Financial Crimes Against the Elderly
Financial crimes against the elderly generally are either committed by strangers or by relatives and caregivers.
1) Fraud by Strangers — generally involves deceiving the victim with the false promise of goods, services, or other benefits, such as:
- Prizes and sweepstakes. Fraudulently informing victims that they have won prizes, and requiring them to send in money to cover fees.
- Investments. Persuading the elderly to invest in precious gems, real estate, annuities, or stocks and bonds by promising unrealistically high rates of return.
- Charity contributions. Soliciting donations to nonexistent charities or religious organizations.
- Home and automobile repairs. Recommending fraudulent repairs, often requiring an advance deposit without doing or finishing the work.
- Loans and mortgages. Providing loans with exorbitant interest rates, hidden fees, and repayment schedules, often placing the home as collateral.
- Health, funeral, and life insurance. Selling the elderly policies that duplicate existing coverage, do not provide the coverage promised, or are bogus.
- Health remedies. Marketing ineffective remedies, promising miracle cures.
- Sweetheart Scams. Alleged suitors woo older people, convincing them that love and care are their motivations for being included on bank accounts or property deeds.
- Faking an injury scenario. A scammer claims to be law enforcement and tells a senior that a child or other close family member has been injured or is in jail. The senior pays the scammer money for medical treatment or bail.
These frauds often take place through high pressure telemarketing and mailed notifications of fraudulent prize and sweepstakes wins, and face-to-face contact.
2) Financial Exploitation by Relatives and Caregivers
Relatives and caregivers are usually trusted and have the advantage of an ongoing relationship with the elderly. Unscrupulous individuals may steal, withhold, borrow without repaying, or misuse the victims’ money, property, or valuables.
They may exploit:
- Joint bank accounts, getting their name added to the elder’s bank account
- Deed or title transfer of property to the exploiter’s name
- Power of attorney and durable power of attorney, giving the exploiter the authority to manage the elder’s affairs
- Living trusts and wills, making the perpetrator the sole beneficiary upon the elder’s death.
Ohio Laws and Agencies Involved
Older consumers are protected by general consumer protection laws, telemarketing laws, and other statutes governing theft, embezzlement, fraud, etc. In addition, fraud and financial abuse cases come under the jurisdiction of federal agencies such as the FBI, Postal Inspection Service, and Secret Service, as well as state and local police.
When a financial crime involves the misuse or abuse of legal documents, it may also be classified as a civil matter, involving prosecutors and the court of jurisdiction. Banks and phone companies and social service agencies, such as adult protective services and medical and mental health services, also help to protect seniors.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit investigates crimes against care facility residents. When elderly or disabled adults are victimized, Ohio law allows for stiffer penalties for offenses such as theft, unauthorized use of property, misuse of credit cards and forgery.
Under the Ohio Revised Code: ORC 5101.60 – 5101.72, social, medical, and mental health care professionals must immediately report suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation to the county departments of job and family services. Attorneys, peace officers, senior service providers, coroners, clergymen and professional counselors are also required to report.
Adult Protective Services assist adults who are in danger of harm, unable to protect themselves and have no one else to assist them. Each County Department of Job and Family Services (CDJFS) in Ohio, is responsible for investigating all reports of abuse, neglect and exploitation of the elderly population 60 years and older.
If you believe that an elderly person may be a victim of financial fraud, call law enforcement for assistance or contact your local Adult Protective Services office for advice. If you become aware of a scam targeting the elderly, contact the Ohio Consumer Affairs department to report the situation.
Contact Us for Help With Financial Crimes
If you suspect that your friend of loved one is no longer capable of making good financial decisions, you need legal assistance.
The experienced and compassionate Ohio debt-relief attorneys at Fesenmyer Cousino Weinzimmer are familiar with the problems of the elderly and offer a free consultation to evaluate the situation.
Delaying can only worsen the elder’s situation, so call the Ohio bankruptcy attorneys at Fesenmyer Cousino Weinzimmer today! Call one of our conveniently located office branches at 614-228-4435 (Columbus), 937-222-7472 (Dayton), or 877-654-5297 (Cincinnati) or email to schedule your free consultation so we can determine what solutions will work best for your family.