Grandma Got Ripped Off by a Stranger
March 3, 2017
It’s estimated that 5% of seniors are victims of financial abuse each year. Financial abuse takes many forms and it is not uncommon for the abuse to occur in nursing homes where vulnerable seniors can become victims of unscrupulous caregivers. Elder financial abuse costs senior citizens billions of dollars a year and can lead to the loss of the savings and tarnish the golden years. If you or a family member was taken advantage of in a nursing home or car facility, call a Las Vegas injury lawyer at Cogburn Law Offices today for a free case consultation.
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Forms of Financial Abuse
Financial abuse in nursing homes can take many forms and can include the following:
Overbilling – Inflating bills or billing medicare, insurance companies, or family members for services and medication that are not provided to the patient are common scams. To help prevent these types of fraud, families, and seniors should avoid setting their bills on “autopay” and should closely monitor statements sent by the facility. It is advisable to question and verify any suspicious charges prior to making any payment to a caregiving facility.
Extortion – Some caregivers consider it “tipping” to ask patients for money in exchange for providing baths, administering medication, or providing any number of treatments. Caregivers can threaten to withhold services or threaten to intensify other forms of abuse unless these “fees” are paid. Vulnerable seniors often pay these “charges” so that their basic needs are taken care of and to avoid the possibility of becoming a victim of physical or sexual abuse.
Identity Theft – Caregivers within nursing homes who gain access to personal mail, wallets, and personal files can easily steal a patient’s identity. This information can be used to open new charge accounts and secure loans in the patient’s name without their knowledge. Families can help protect against this by storing records and having mail sent to the home address of a trusted family member, such as a guardian or the executor of the estate, rather than having mail delivered to the nursing home.
Investment Scams – Seniors may be pressured to invest in business ideas or to make loans to caregivers. These scams often involve a caregiver acting as an intermediary between themselves and a “friend with a great business idea,” or a “family member in dire need.” Often, the caregiver will collect the cash and the business will mysteriously go belly up or the family member in need will have repeated setbacks when trying to repay the loan.
Theft – Caregivers who gain access to pin numbers, investment accounts, and other financial instruments can dip into these accounts and drain seniors of their financial assets. In many cases, this is not done in one or two withdrawals. Rather, it is a slow drip that often goes unnoticed until many thousands of dollars have gone missing.
Factors that Increase the Possibility of Financial Abuse
Certain factors can increase the likelihood that a senior will become the victim of financial abuse. These include:
Mental Incapacity – Declining mental health and alertness can cause seniors to provide personal information and access to financial accounts to “well-meaning” caregivers. Diagnosis with conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Dementia, MS, and others that affect analytical and decision-making ability can place seniors at elevated risk for financial exploitation.
Age – The older a patient is, the greater the possibility that they will become the victim of financial abuse. The older a senior is, the less likely they are to have surviving family members or friends nearby who can assist them with their personal financial affairs.
Proximity to Family – Seniors who live far away from family members and friends may feel alone and isolated. This can make them give in to extortion demands and can embolden malicious caregivers who may determine that accounts and financial assets are not being closely monitored.
Physical Abuse – Physical abuse, or the threat of physical abuse can create an atmosphere of fear which can cause seniors to give into the demands of their caregivers.
Pursuing Damages for Financial Abuse
A Las Vegas nursing home abuse attorney should be consulted as soon as financial abuse is suspected. An attorney can help close accounts and put together an accounting of how much was stolen, who stole it, when it was taken, and what it was used for. In addition to the civil case, this information can also be provided to Nevada investigators who rigorously protect seniors and may choose to pursue criminal sanctions and penalties against the individual, the facility they work for, and any individual who knowingly benefited from the abuse.
Effects of Financial Abuse
Financial abuse can cause seniors to lose trust in others, lead to depression, and leave seniors without the ability to care for their financial needs as they age. This can lead to diminished life expectancy and financial destitution. Because the effects of financial abuse can affect every member of the family, it is important to closely monitor the financial affairs of elderly family members and to take proactive steps to protect seniors from fraud and other forms of financial abuse.