Financial Exploitation is a Common Crime Against the Elderly

October 9, 2015

 

Elderly people in nursing homes are taken advantage of and abused in a variety of ways by caregivers and others, outside of traditional physical abuse.  One way in which elderly people are abused is through financial exploitation.  Our loved ones should not lose their life savings at the hands of amoral criminals; as such, it is imperative that you take swift action if you suspect your loved one is at risk.

What is Financial Exploitation?

Financial exploitation occurs in a variety of ways.  A person is guilty of financial exploitation if they cause a “vulnerable adult” to engage in improper or unlawful activity or work, or to do anything that would be against the wishes of the vulnerable adult if they were able to think reasonably and rationally.  The improper, unlawful or unauthorized use of funds, property, or other assets of the vulnerable adult for profit is also considered financial exploitation.  Selling goods and services for profit to a vulnerable adult using undue influence, duress, force, or swindling is also financial exploitation (“conning” them into buying goods or services).

A vulnerable adult is not just an elderly person, it is any person who has a physical or mental condition which substantially prevents the person from taking care of themselves.  All residents of nursing home facilities (any residential facility) are defined under South Carolina law as vulnerable adults.

How Does Financial Exploitation Usually Occur?

Our elderly loved ones are frequent and attractive targets to financial scammers due to their dependence on others.  Being dependent on others forces elderly people to “trust” virtual strangers.  This is especially true if your loved one is not comfortable with electronics. For example, a nursing home resident may allow a “helper” to have access to their bank accounts or other credit information, and they subsequently may be robbed by the scammer.

Elder abuse is committed by caregivers, by family members, by strangers, and by nursing home staff members.  Financial exploitation of nursing home residents is the most likely financial exploitation to go unreported, as our elderly loved ones often fear that reporting the financial exploitation against a current staff member may lead to further and worse types of abuse.  Our elderly loved ones suffering from dementia are the most likely to be financially exploited, as they may not even be aware that they are being exploited.

Laws Against Financial Exploitation

South Carolina takes the financial exploitation of our loved ones seriously, and has criminalized such behavior.  If a person is found guilty of criminal exploitation, they will face a felony conviction which carries a penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine of $5,000.

Warning Signs that Your Loved One is the Victim of Financial Exploitation

You may notice some changes in your loved one if he or she is being financially exploited in the nursing home.  Your loved one might begin acting very secretively, regarding financial matters.  You may notice unusual transfers or withdrawals from bank accounts, or transfers of real property or other assets.  You may notice your elderly loved one is making unusual loans, or has new friends or even a new love interest.  A major red flag is if your elderly loved one wants to change the beneficiary of a will or trust or make other changes to an estate.  There are more financial warning signs, but any of these should give you cause to investigate further.   

What Should You Do If You or a Loved One Has Been Financially Exploited?

If you suspect an elderly relative is the victim of financial exploitation by a staff member at the South Carolina nursing home in which they reside, you should immediately report your concerns, both to the management of the care facility, and to the police.  Financial exploitation is not just a civil matter, it is a crime.  After calling the police, you should call or email the David Aylor Law Offices for an initial, complimentary consultation, to explore how we can help you seek justice for your elderly loved one.

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