Elder exploitation is on the rise across America. This crime impacts seniors and vulnerable adults on a daily basis, and is not limited to being perpetrated solely by unknown third parties. In fact, research tells us that the majority of elder exploitation crimes are committed by family members or close relatives.
Crimes against the elderly take many forms. Elder exploitation itself is most often the description applied to the financial, criminal acts committed against a person over sixty years of age. These crimes can be egregious with the senior losing tens of thousands of dollars in a single transaction, their entire life savings over time or even real property, such as their home. Financial exploitation crimes may also be subtle with small amounts taken from the senior over extended periods of time. Financial crimes can happen with or without a senior’s knowledge.
When these crimes happen with the senior’s knowledge often he or she is too afraid or too dependent on the criminal to be able to take action. The person committing the financial exploitation crimes could be the primary caregiver for the senior and without the caregiver the senior would be unable to live independently. In these instances, the senior may also not know how to seek help or where to report a crime has taken place.
In instances where the senior does not know financial exploitation crimes are being committed, there are different reasons why this could be happening. First, the senior may no longer have capacity to carefully monitor finances to ensure he or she is not being taken advantage of. This crime could be committed by family member with authority to act or the senior could be the victim of a scam, fraud or other criminal act targeted at accessing the senior‘s assets. Further, if the perpetrator is in a position of trust with the elder, he or she may have authority to act on accounts as the agent or trustee. This could be through specific estate planning documents such as a durable power of attorney or trust agreement. In these instances, these documents create a fiduciary relationship between the senior and the selected individual. Although this trusted relationship exists, a bad actor can use the authority given to commit exploitation crimes against the elder.
Financial exploitation is just one type of exploitation that is committed against our seniors today. Crimes of physical abuse, neglect, isolation, and maltreatment are just a few of the other potential crimes to be on the lookout for. When you suspect exploitation has taken place, do not wait to seek help. In Virginia, you can seek help from the Virginia Department of Social Services or report using the toll free number 888-83-ADULT. Don’t wait to talk to our legal team as well! Contact us to discuss how to protect yourself and those you love from exploitation.