perate, adult children; people are living longer; and sophisticated technology makes
access to financial information easier—some
of the reasons why this booming crime is
likely to continue.
Frequently, money is taken or misused by
a family member (most commonly a child),
or by a friend, professional (accountant, lawyer, banker), caregiver or neighbor.
Some people assert that they’re entitled
to take money or property prematurely if
they’re an only child, contribute to a parent’s
care or if they are are the beneficiary of the
will. Of course, most know exactly what
Whether it’s a stranger or someone the victim knows well, schemers either take the money
directly or psychologically manipulate the
senior holding the purse strings. “Sweetheart
scams,” like Schinman’s, are also on the rise.
Often, the perpetrator has legal access by
acquiring power of attorney (POA) over the
older person’s finances, with access to credit
cards, assets and/or property.
“The number-one way we see elders
exploited is by their power of attorney,” maintains Elizabeth Loewy, who prosecuted famous
philanthropist Brooke Astor’s son, Anthony
Marshall. He and his attorney were convicted
of defrauding and stealing from Astor. “There’s
no judge making sure the [holder of a] POA is
Elder Justice Act
to prevent, detect
spending the money appropriately,” says
Loewy. “It gives them a license to steal.”
Recognizing the signs
Experts say you should look for uncharacteristic behavior: not paying bills; excessive
spending or bank withdrawals; a change in
beneficiaries; new names on accounts; odd
charges on a credit card; unnecessary house
repairs or services. Sometimes the smoking
gun is missing items, or it can be less blatant.
The dishonest person may isolate the vic-
tim from family and friends, discouraging
contact by controlling the telephone, never
leaving the victim alone, being overly posses-
sive, making the victim suspicious of others
or becoming the victim’s new “best friend.”
Ulrey offers these suggestions for reduc-
ing risk of financial abuse.
Freelancer Sally Abrahms specializes in aging,
work, health and education for national magazines, websites, companies and organizations.
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