What You Need to Know About Elder Financial Abuse in California

The financial abuse of an elder is a serious crime, and it can ruin the financial, emotional, and physical wellbeing of an elder person. Here is everything an individual needs to know about elder financial abuse in California.

Elder abuse is defined as the physical, emotional, financial abuse, or other maltreatment of an elder. The California Penal Code Section 368 protects the rights of elders from all types of abuse, including financial exploitation. An individual charged with elder financial abuse can face legal charges of a misdemeanor or even a felony.

What is Financial Abuse?

Financial abuse is the illegal use, control over, or withholding of the property of a person who is over 60 years of age for another person’s personal benefit. Here are some examples of crimes that would count as elder financial abuse:

  • The use of deception, intimidation, or undue influence by a person in a position of trust with an elderly person to obtain or use their property to their own advantage
  • The exploitation of fiduciary duty, such as the misuse of a power of attorney, trust, or guardianship appointment that allows the sale or transfer of the elder’s property without their consent
  • The possession or use of an elder’s funds without lawful authority by an individual who is aware or clearly should be aware that the elderly person cannot consent to the release of their property

Elder financial abuse is becoming more common in recent years, deemed the “crime of the twenty-first century” by the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA). They reported that 1 in 9 seniors reported being neglected or exploited in 2018, and 1 in 20 seniors claimed some form of financial mistreatment.

What Elder Financial Abuse Can Look Like

The financial abuse of an elder can manifest differently in many aspects of daily life. This kind of exploitation is often not a high-profile case where an individual was illegally squandering the money of their grandparent’s savings without their knowledge. In most cases, it can appear right under the public eye. Here are some ways financial elder abuse can appear in day-to-day life:

  • The act of stealing money, jewelry, or other personal possession
  • Intercepting cash or checks
  • Telemarketing fraud
  • Forging an elder’s signature
  • Coercing or deceiving an elder into signing documents such as a contract or will
  • Befriending an elder for elaborate gifts (cars, trips, loans, etc.)
  • Fraudulently persuading an elder to give up their money and/or personal belongings

It is crucial for elderly people to know the signs of financial abuse so they can be extra cautious when handling their funds and property with other individuals. Elders uncomfortable with handling finances should consider hiring an attorney or consulting a trustworthy loved one when dealing with financial matters.

Related: Nursing Home Lawsuits in California

Telemarketing Fraud

Telemarketing fraud is one of the most common methods used to financially abuse an elder. Due to the high level of ambiguity that the telemarketer has, it is very difficult for any individual to distinguish if the call is legitimate. Additionally, the strategies of using fear rhetoric, false prize claims, and fraudulent charities are excellent ways a telemarketer can persuade an elder to give up their money. Here are some examples of sale pitches from a telemarketer that are commonly fraudulent:

  • “You have won a lottery, but to claim the money, you must send a payment to pay the taxes on the money you have won.”
  • “You have a tax refund, verify your name, date of birth, and social security number to claim the money.”
  • “You have unpaid taxes that need to be paid by today, or else face legal repercussions.”
  • “We can give you a great home at a great cost, regardless of your credit.”
  • Any pitch that begins stating that you won a trip, money, a car, or uses a “just call this number” statement.

The most effective way for the elder to protect themselves from telemarketer fraud is to refrain from giving out any personal information over the phone or email pitch. It is recommended that an elder hangs up the phone, and if they are hopeful about the validity of the pitch, to call a trustworthy family member or friend to help determine the legitimacy of it.

How to Protect an Elder from Financial Abuse

If they can, an elder should try to stray away from releasing any funds, property, or financial information without the witness of another trustworthy family member, friend, or hired attorney. Here are some other tips an elder can follow to help protect them from financial abuse:

  • Refrain from signing blank checks that allow another individual to fill out the amount.
  • Do not give out access to your bank account to any strangers.
  • Check your financial statements routinely and carefully for unauthorized withdrawals.
  • Do not be pressured by family members, friends, caregivers, or anyone to do anything that you do not want to do with your money.
  • Do not leave money or valuables in plain view.
  • Be aware of all scams, whether by phone, email, or regular mail. A helpful rule is if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

Contact Us

If you or a loved one have any more questions about elder financial abuse in California, contact us. Get your free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys today!