What is Financial Elder Abuse?

Financial abuse involves the unauthorized use of an elder’s financial resources (funds or property) and results in the elder incurring financial loss due to fraud or other bad faith conduct.

Financial elder abuse can be both a civil and criminal offence. Civil law defines civil elder financial abuse as when a person or entity does any of the following (Welfare & Institutions Code Section 15610.30):

  • Takes, secretes, appropriates, obtains, or retains real or personal property of an elder for a wrongful use or with intent to defraud, or both;
  • Assists in taking, secreting, appropriating, obtaining, or retaining real or personal property of an elder for a wrongful use or with intent to defraud, or both; or
  • Takes, secretes, appropriates, obtains, or retains, or assists in taking, secreting, appropriating, obtaining, or retaining, real or personal property of an by undue influence.

Under the Welfare & Institutions Code, the definition of ‘wrongful use’ is, if the person ‘knew or should have known that this conduct is likely to be harmful to the elder’.

Financial fraud on the elderly is not only deceitful; it is also cruel and likely illegal. If you or a loved one is a victim of Elder fraud, you need legal assistance from an attorney who has a thorough understanding of the law and who will fight for you or your loved one.

At Steburg Law Firm we are always looking out for your best interest and will work hard to obtain maximum compensation for those victimized by Elder fraud. We provide assistance to victims of Elder fraud throughout the state. If you or a loved one needs assistance, come to a firm where you will be treated with compassion and obtain highly individualized attention from an experienced attorney.

Understanding Financial Elder Abuse

Elder financial abuse takes many devious forms. A scam artist might siphon funds from an elder’s bank account, secretly transfer assets into a risky investment, or slowly, methodically withdraw sums using a stolen card. Scam artists who exploit the elderly also use less obvious but no less destructive means. An unlicensed annuities broker, for instance, might encourage a senior to sign a contract that gives the senior a raw deal. Entire institutions and corporations can also exploit seniors by improperly taxing their property or assets, leveraging their private information inappropriately, or compelling an elder person to sign a document, such as a will or contract, that sets the stage for future exploitation.

Who are the Perpetrators of Financial Elder Abuse?

Perpetrators of financial elder abuse can be caregivers, insurance companies, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, professionals or businesspersons, strangers and family members (including sons, daughters, grandchildren and spouses). There is no requirement to show discrimination based on age or an actual intention to exploit. There is also no requirement to show, in an employment setting, that the elder employee could not make his or her own decisions. Any individual who seeks out an elder with the intent of exploiting them is guilty of elder financial abuse. So long as it is obvious to a reasonable person that the individual is not entitled to the elder’s assets, he or she will be guilty of abuse even in the absence of intent to defraud.

Types of Financial Elder Abuse?

Abuse of this nature spans a broad spectrum of conduct. It can be as simple as stealing some money out of an elder’s wallet, deceiving an elder to falsely pay money, forging a signature or as sophisticated as fraudulently taking control of an elder’s estate. In an employment relationship, the financial abuse laws would apply broadly and include every payment of wages, employment decisions that would affect wages and termination.

There are many common examples of financial abuse, they include:

  • Scams involving healthcare providers. This can include: (1) Charging for healthcare and not providing it; (2) Overcharging or duplicate billings for medical care or services; (3) Unlawful referral arrangements with other providers or for prescribing certain drugs; (4) Overmedicating or under medicating. Recommending fraudulent remedies for illnesses or other medical conditions; and (5) Medicaid fraud
  • Real estate predatory lending elder abuse. This includes, for example, offering a senior citizen a loan when there’s no way he/she can repay it, or locking an elder into a loan with a balloon payment that is impossible to pay. Even if the perpetrator fails to obtain the property it is still possible to charge them with attempted senior fraud.
  • Credit card/insolvency elder fraud.This can include (1) Fraudulent promises to repair his/her credit; (2) Offering fraudulent insurance to protect his/her credit cards against unauthorized charges; (3) Using counterfeit checks or debit cards to drain an elder’s bank account; or (4) File for bankruptcy under the victim’s name to avoid paying debts incurred under that name, or to avoid eviction.
  • Investment fraud.
  • Failure to pay an elder’s upkeep from a trust. For instance, a daughter trustee of her mother’s life estate does not provide enough money for her mother’s monthly upkeep or an abuse of Power of Attorney authorization.
  • Home repair senior fraud. This includes when a perpetrator offers to make home improvements, tree-trimming services, roof repair, paint touch-ups, for example, and either takes the money without performing the work, or doesn’t perform the promised work (or does a substandard job).
  • Funeral and cemetery senior fraud. This is when a perpetrator scams or defrauds a senior into paying exorbitant costs for these arrangements or any costs for services that you are not provided.
  • Telemarketing/mail/internet senior fraud. This includes soliciting a senior to (1) Donate to fraudulent charity; (2) Pay money to claim an illegitimate sweepstakes prize; or (3) Provide his/her personal information to use that information for unlawful purposes.
The Effects of Financial Elder Abuse

Whether the senior you care about lost $40,000 in a terrible investment or got kicked off her life insurance plan because a con artist urged her to dump her policy for a dubious deal, the ultimate ramifications of this abuse can be profound and even life-threatening. Many seniors depend on their retirement funds, properties, and assets to see them through their golden years, pay for medical care, and support the next generation. Moreover, a senior who has been robbed or who has experienced a major financial setback may suffer depression. Without money to pay for expensive drug treatments or therapies or trips to see grandchildren, the victim loses far more than the monetary value of the cash and property taken.

Protecting You from Senior Citizen Exploitation and Abuse

Unfortunately, older adults may be vulnerable and fall victim to others' schemes and ill intent and may even suffer abuse.  Advocating for our clients and obtaining maximum compensation are our goals. We work to make certain that the fraud is exposed and your hard-earned income is returned to the fullest extent possible.

Working with fraud cases requires detailed investigations and qualified expert witnesses. The Steburg Law Firm has the knowledge needed to build the strongest case possible to ensure that the perpetrators of fraud pay for their wrongdoing. At our firm, we understand the legal system and provide skilled legal assistance in situations involving:

  • Unnecessary repairs to home
  • Dishonest contractors
  • Investment schemes
  • Financial fraud
  • Embezzlement

The burden of proof on plaintiffs in elder financial abuse cases is high. Although you may believe that the evidence supporting your claim is very strong, if not bulletproof, you might be surprised by how resistant and resilient the defense can be. The attorneys at Steburg Law Firm will scrutinize the details of the alleged abuse, leverage trusted investigative resources, craft an effective pre-trial strategy, and deliver a memorable courtroom performance, if necessary.  Call our attorneys today at 408-209-2403, for a free consultation, and get answers to the pressing questions you and your family currently face.

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