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HKQ Firm News

ELDER FINANCIAL EXPLOITATION

It’s been called the “Crime of the 21st Century”. The Older Americans Act of 2006 defines elder financial exploitation as “the fraudulent or otherwise illegal, unauthorized, or improper act or process of an individual, including a caregiver or fiduciary, that uses the resources of an older individual for monetary or personal benefit, profit, or gain, or that results in depriving an older individual of rightful access to, or use of, benefits, resources, belongings, or assets.”

A recent survey found that over one third of senior citizens have experienced financial abuse. Victims of elder financial abuse reportedly lose about $36,000 on average. But even smaller amounts can have a devastating impact on a senior’s financial security and even on their health. (Almost one in ten financial abuse victims will turn to Medicaid as a direct result of their own monies being stolen from them.)

WHY SENIOR CITIZENS ARE SO vulnerable

The elderly are more vulnerable to financial exploitation for a number of reasons. A significant number are suffering from cognitive impairment. (An estimated 5.4 million people in the U.S. have Alzheimer's disease, which can seriously compromise the ability to make sound financial decisions.) Physical frailty issues mean that seniors have to depend on others, often strangers, for things such as routine chores and maintenance around house. Some elderly people have substantial “nest eggs”, own their home, and have excellent credit, making them attractive marks for con artists. What’s more, senior citizens are often isolated, with no relatives living nearby, or friends visiting them regularly. Finally, seniors are increasingly becoming internet users, but because they’re often internet novices, they may not be aware of the potential risks.

THE PERPETRATORS

According to “The MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse”, about half the perpetrators of elder financial exploitation were strangers, and one-third were family, friends, and trusted acquaintances. Businesses were the perpetrators 12% of the time, while Medicaid fraud accounted for the remainder.

Some Common Ways Family Members and Trusted Others Exploit seniors

  • Using a power of attorney, granted by the victim to allow another person to handle his/her finances to steal the victim’s monies for the perpetrator’s own use.
  • Taking money from joint bank accounts.
  • Using ATM cards or stolen checks to withdraw money from the victim’s accounts.
  • Convincing the victim to give the perpetrator money under the threat of physical harm or abandonment.
  • Refusing to obtain needed care and medical services for the victim so as to keep the person’s assets available for the perpetrator.

Some ways senior citizens are scammed by strangers

Lottery & sweepstakes scams.

Scammers inform their target that they have won a lottery or sweepstakes and need to make some sort of payment to receive the money or “prize”.

Investment schemes.

A number of fraudulent investment schemes can exploit seniors looking for the best way to safeguard their cash for their later years.

Medicare/health insurance scams.

Perpetrators may pose as a Medicare representative in order to get older people to give them their personal information, which is then used to bill Medicare.

Home repair scams.

Scammers case neighborhoods looking for older residents, then appear on their doorsteps claiming to spot something in need of fixing such as a hole in the roof or clogged drainpipe.The scammers demand payment up front.

Funeral scams.

Some scammers read obituaries, then call or attend the funeral service of a complete stranger to take advantage of the grieving widow or widower

Bogus anti-aging products.

Many older Americans seek new treatments and medications to maintain a youthful appearance, putting themselves at risk of scammers peddling bogus products.

Telemarketing/phone scams.

One in six American consumers -- about 80% of them are 50 or older — are bilked by bogus telemarketers. Phone scams are typically used to conduct investment and credit card fraud, and identity theft.

Internet fraud.

The internet can provide scammers with a number of ways to exploit people, of any age. For example, pop‐up browser windows simulating virus‐scanning software can fool victims into either downloading a fake anti‐virus program or an actual virus that will give the scammer access to the victim’s information.

Email/phishing scams.

A computer user receives email messages that appear to be from a legitimate company or asking them to “update” or “verify” their personal information.

The “grandparent scam”.

A con artist calls the victim posing as a relative (or someone claiming to represent the relative.) The "relative" of the grandparent explains that he or she is in trouble and needs their grandparent to wire them funds for bail money, lawyer’s fees, hospital bills, or another fictitious expense.

Tips to avoid elder financial abuse and exploitation:

  • Deal only with reputable financial institutions and advisors.
  • Get to know your banker and attorney and build a relationship with the employees who handle your finances. They can look out for any suspicious activity related to your account.
  • Carefully screen and check references of anyone you hire, including caretakers and contractors.
  • Do not open the door to strangers or invite anyone you don't know into your house.
  • Lock up your checkbook, account statements and other sensitive information when others will be in your home.
  • Order copies of your credit report once a year to ensure accuracy.
  • Check your bank statements on a regular basis to look for suspicious activity.
  • Shred receipts, bank statements and unused credit card offers before throwing them away.
  • Never give personal information, including Social Security Number, account number or other
  • financial information to anyone over the phone unless you initiated the call and the other party
  • is trusted.
  • Never pay a fee or taxes to collect sweepstakes or lottery “winnings.”
  • Never rush into a financial decision.  Ask for details in writing and get a second opinion.  
  • Consult with an attorney or financial advisor before signing any document you don’t understand.
  • Assign powers of attorney only to very trustworthy people.
  • Carefully choose a trustworthy attorney and person to act as your agent in all estate planning matters.

For assistance with powers of attorney and estate planning issues, call HKQ Law at (800) 760-1529.

If you suspect someone close to you is trying to take control of your finances, contact your local Area Agency on Aging or call the statewide abuse hotline at (800) 490-8505. If you think you’ve been the victim of financial exploitation, contact the police immediately.

About Hourigan, Kluger & Quinn, PC

Hourigan, Kluger & Quinn is considered one of the top civil litigation and commercial law firms that has had the privilege of representing more families in the courtroom than any other NEPA firm. The attorneys at HKQ Law have been honored as Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers, Best Law Firms by US News and World Reports, and have received the AV Preeminent Rating by Martindale-Hubbel. HKQ Law was recently recognized for one of the top 20 Verdicts in Pennsylvania.

The firm’s Personal Injury Team, led by Attorney Joe Quinn, Jr., has won some of the largest verdicts and settlements in the region's history, totaling over a half billion dollars on behalf of injured clients. The Personal Injury Team focuses on a wide array of personal injury claims and civil litigation, including medical malpractice, auto and truck accidents, aviation accidents, unsafe vehicles, dangerous or defective products, workplace injuries (worker's compensation), construction site accidents, claim denials by insurance companies, dangerous drugs, defective children's products, nursing home abuse and neglect, and falls due to unsafe conditions (slip and fall).

Attorney Joseph A Quinn, Jr. is one of only 100 attorneys in the United States (and one of only three in Pennsylvania) honored with membership in the Inner Circle of Trial Advocates, and one of only 500 attorneys worldwide chosen to be a Fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers. He has been a Pennsylvania Super Lawyer every year since the program began and has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America every year since the publication was established in 1987. Best Lawyers also named him top personal injury attorney for Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley. In addition, Best Lawyers, in conjunction with U.S. News & World Report, has designated HKQ a Tier 1 Best Law Firm for personal injury and medical malpractice litigation in Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley.

Since the inception of the firm, the Commercial / Corporate Team led by Attorney Allan Kluger has provided comprehensive, integrated legal services to many of Northeastern and Eastern Pennsylvania's largest corporations, businesses, banks, non-profits and institutions, handling matters involving labor and employment, wills, trusts and estate planning, estate administration, elder law, commercial transactions, residential and commercial real estate, zoning, land use and development, telecommunications, mediations and arbitrations, commercial litigation, title insurance, business planning and business succession, corporate/business structuring, employment discrimination law for employers, banking, creditor’s rights, finance, lender liability defense, covenants not to compete, construction law, mergers and acquisitions and other business matters.

Additional information can be found at www.HKQLaw.com or by calling (800) 760-1529.

				

 

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