What does Elder Financial Abuse look like?

Walking Moss Beach bluffs

Last week I attended “The Rising Tide of Elder Financial Exploitation” at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.  The sold out crowd listened to Jenefer Duane, Sr. Program Analyst, Office for Older Americans, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Helen Karr, Elder Abuse Special Assistant, San Francisco District Attorney’s Office.  As a Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES), I want to be as knowledgeable as possible, including being aware of red flags.

“The percentage of total reported cases may be as little as sixteen percent, with the remaining eighty-four percent unreported” according to Catherine Seal’s article titled Financial Exploitation of Seniors linked below.  This is a downloadable/printable pdf which is an excellent article.  The reason why so many “cases” are unreported is because information to date shows this is mostly a family issue… unsupervised caregivers, either paid or unpaid; quiet removal of personal property that goes un-noticed; getting help with finances leads to total control; isolation from greater family;  diminished capacity can be slow – go un-noticed for a while.  The elder is quietly ashamed and fearful of retaliation.  The biggest fear for the senior is that no one will be there to take care of them if they were to speak out.

Other areas of financial abuse are financial planners, home repair, telemarketing, but it was stated that 90% is embezzlement in the home.  The biggest and most recognized form of financial abuse is the POA (Power of Attorney) abuser.  The speakers said the abuser may need help him/herself.  They recommended reporting to Adult Protective Services.  If not reported, it will go undocumented.  They believe only 1 in 25 to 100 cases get reported now.  In our industry, depending on how Title is held, the Escrow Officer and/or lender may need to see the POA.

Three new laws were passed in 2012 that families and their fiduciaries need to be aware of:  AB 1525, AB 2149, and SB 717.  Scroll to California to read the summaries.

A bank representative stood up to ask what the banking industry can do to help.  They were advised to train employees, invest in preparation.  Dual signing is important.  Financial audits monthly are important.

Other best practices in general:  Teach financial literacy at a young age.  Collaboration among agencies & non-profits.

As several people waited in line to chat with the speakers, it was apparent that there were many concerns and stories out there.  The links below provide further information and resources.  Pass this on to someone who you think may want to know more… You could save a life and a legacy.


Moderator:  Kira Reginato, Eldercare Management and Radio Host

Seal financial_exploitation_of_seniors

Ombudsman Services of San Mateo County

Eldercare Locator

Power of Attorney can lead to financial abuse

 Photo Credit: Barbara Masek Photography