Heather Whitaker Goldstein, principal with the Van Winkle Law Firm, urged attendees at Parsec’s Longevity Forum that elder financial abuse is indeed sadly an epidemic.

Elder financial abuse is the illegal, improper or non-consensual use or taking of an older adult’s funds, property or assets either in a relationship where there is an expectation of trust, aka “fiduciary relationship,” or where an older person is targeted based on age or disability.

According to the National Council on Aging, approximately 1 in 10 Americans over 60 self-report that they have been a victim, although only 1 in 14 cases are documented.

Examples of elder financial abuse include:

  • Withdrawing money from bank accounts
  • Creating joint accounts
  • Getting adult to sign checks or forgery
  • Using credit card without authorization
  • Transferring property or executing deeds
  • Changing estate plan
  • Misusing a power of attorney
  • Billing for unnecessary work
  • Selling inappropriate mortgage, investment or insurance products
  • Coordinating frauds and scams (wire transfers)

Heather warned attendees about the “cognitive danger zone,” which is a period of life when vulnerability has set in but individuals don’t yet know that they are being taken advantage of.

In every case of exploitation, there is a lack of consent and/or lack of capacity or undue influence. If consent was given, Heather questions if there was sufficient capacity in order to give capacity or was there overwhelming influence by an outsider that impacted one’s consent?

Heather gave the example of Mickey Rooney, who spoke out against elder abuse stating that he was a victim himself.

Heather gave attendees six prevention tips:

  1. Understand the exploitation epidemic
  2. Spot the telltale signs
  3. Have honest conversations
  4. Assume it could happen to you
  5. Freeze your credit across all three credit bureaus as soon as possible
  6. If you are being hounded by scammers, consider getting a new number and only pick up the phone from numbers you recognize.

In case you missed Heather’s talk you can watch the replay below or download her full presentation, “Putting a stop to it! Surviving the Elder Financial Abuse Epidemic.”