Learn the Signs of Elder Abuse to Protect Florida Seniors

Research tells us that elder abuse continues to be on the rise across America. Elder abuse is described by the National Council on Aging as “physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation, neglect, and abandonment.” It specifically refers to the abuse that occurs on the population of Older Americans. “Older Americans” is a generational term that describes citizens who are sixty years of age and older. As a generation, predators believe this group is more vulnerable to attack, easy to target, and less likely to report harm.

Elder abuse takes many forms. These forms can include, but not be limited to, physical neglect, physical abuse and emotional harm, but perhaps the most prevalent is the crime of elder exploitation and financial theft. Research tells us that one out of every ten Older Americans will be abused in their lifetime. Further, many of these crimes will be perpetrated by caregivers or family members.

As World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is celebrated this week, we all need to take time to appreciate and understand the attacks on our senior loved ones. Let us share a few signs to watch out for together with ideas to ensure that you may be better prepared to help protect the seniors in your life.

1. Watch out for large cash withdrawals. Large cash withdrawals should be suspect. Although there may be a good reason, it also can be an indicator of financial exploitation. Work together with your senior loved one to help monitor existing bank accounts to make sure the senior is not pressured to remove cash for a third party or that a third party does not gain access to use the card without permission.

2. Learn more about unexplained, new payments. Especially for isolated seniors who are reliant on caregivers or family members, pressure can arise to make payments to a third party. This could be someone who is providing services to the senior or the senior may have fallen victim to a scam. Ask your senior loved one about the company, person, or entity that he or she has started to make payments to.

3. Establish a pattern for daily communication. Predators target seniors who they believe do not have a support network. They are specifically looking for seniors who may be isolated and do not have anyone to rely on. Make sure you stay in regular, daily communication with your senior loved one. Establish a check in call time for you and your loved one so that you are able to remain as current as possible on what is going on on a daily basis.

4. Introduce the seniors in your life to technology. Chat messaging, video calls, and text messaging, are all relatively easy ways to stay connected with your senior loved ones. Although it may seem like a simple solution, video can be one of the easiest ways to determine if your senior loved one has been harmed.  There is so much you can learn from a video from a video call when you’re looking at your senior loved one face-to-face as opposed to only over the phone. Although it may take some time initially, help your senior loved one learn how to use this technology.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. Remember that elder abuse can happen at any time and be perpetrated by anyone. Do not wait to act. Contact local authorities and support the senior to ensure that he or she will be safe during this critical time. If you have questions on this or any elder law issue do you not wait to contact our firm and let us know.

How Will You Protect Seniors from Scams?

Older Americans Month is in full swing. Older Americans are seniors over the age of 60 years old in America. This May, and every month of the year, how do you plan to care for the seniors in your life and ensure that they are protected?

Start by ensuring they have the right Florida estate planning in place. For Older Americans, estate planning is more than just basic documents. To protect the Florida senior, he or she needs estate planning that contemplates a future in which he or she may need long-term care assistance outside the home. Time is of the essence for creating this type of planning and ensuring that the future of both the senior and his or her family is protected.

Long-term care challenges and issues that arise from the aging process, are just part of what elders today need to be protected from. At the forefront of these issues, there is also the concern of exploitation against Older Americans.

Unfortunately, as a demographic, seniors are viewed by scammers and predators as easy targets in comparison to other generations. This is one of the main reasons why many scams are focused on this age group. Let us share a few of the most frequent scams out there so you can protect yourself and the seniors you love.

1. Mail scams. As a demographic, Older Americans continue to be one of the most targeted groups for scammers when it comes to mail scams. The criminals send enticing offers through the United States postal office designed to manipulate the senior to take action. By acting through this type of scam, the senior is at risk of losing income, assets, and valuable private information. It is important to remain discerning whenever anything is received through the mail system.

2. Hurricane Insurance Scams. This is a scam found specifically in states where hurricanes are present. Similar to the hurricane contractor scam, the scammer is intent on preying on the fears of a senior. The scam promises 100% coverage in the event of a possible, future natural disaster although there is no intent to ever pay on the premium that is required up front. Although hurricane insurance can be a good choice for a senior, be sure to research companies and use only reputable providers.

3. The Grandparent Scam. This scam is one that is designed to target seniors through emotional manipulation. Through this scam, the senior receives a phone call from a distraught loved one, usually someone claiming to be a grandchild. The perpetrator calls at a time designed to catch the senior unaware, usually very early in the morning or late at night. Although this type of emotional manipulation can be difficult to withstand, do not provide financial information or wire money. Instead, take down your “grandchild’s” information and contact a parent to assist them.

4. The IRS Scam. It is important for seniors to know that the IRS will never call you on the phone. The IRS prefers to communicate in writing and will never spontaneously request payment be made over the telephone. Scammers frequently use this scam to scare others with the threat of liens on the home, property, or checking account. None of these actions can be taken by the scammer although it is threatened. Take down the caller’s information, if he or she is willing to give it, and then contact the IRS directly or your accountant. Do not provide this person with any of your bank account information.

We know how difficult it can be as a senior to avoid scams. These criminals are intelligent and have designed a system specifically designed to prey on you. Do not hesitate to let us know what questions you have or if you have more scams that you would like us to be made aware of. We are here to help you now and in the event of a crisis.

What to do if you suspect elder financial abuse

Elder abuse is horrific in every form it takes. Authorities have estimated that financial scams of the elderly are the crime of the future, and caregivers and family members also, unfortunately, take advantage of seniors as well. Older men and women are easy targets, since they have assets, are often incapacitated and are otherwise trusting.

What should you do if you suspect elder financial abuse? AgingCare.com outlines the process, but the bottom line is, report it. Even if you aren’t sure it’s happening, or fear retaliation.

In Florida, you are able to make a report of abuse confidentially. In any report, whether written or verbal, certain essential information must be included in order to permit law enforcement to do its job. You can talk to police confidentially, and you can even call your local Crime Stoppers chapter to ensure you remain anonymous.

According to Aging Care:

“You must name the elder whom you think is being abused, and identify the address where the elder can be found. You must name the suspected abuser, and provide that address if you have it. You are not required to give your name, but it can be helpful for you to answer law enforcement’s questions as an investigation of the suspected abuse begins. If you report abuse, the matter will likely be referred for investigation, and an experienced investigator will contact you. If you are afraid of the suspected abuser, you can remain anonymous. You will need to identify the location of any suspected actions which appear to you to be abuse, whether they are at the elder’s home, or a facility caring for the elder.”

If the person stealing is another relative, it’s painful and overwhelming. But just think about how you are protecting your loved one from financial abuse. Many seniors are incapacitated, because they suffer from dementia or another age-related issue, so they have no idea they are being swindled by someone they love and trust. Some older men and women know what is going on but are either too afraid or embarrassed to report it themselves. And others worry about getting a son, daughter, niece, nephew or friend in trouble so they simply let it go, at the risk of going broke themselves. If you see something, say something today.

Our experienced and trusted estate planning attorneys have been serving Treasure Coast families for decades, and Michael Fowler is one of only nine attorneys in the state of Florida who is double board-certified in wills trusts and estates and in elder law.  Contact us for your initial consultation at one of our conveniently located offices in Fort Pierce, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, and Okeechobee.

Protecting the elderly from Facebook trolls

There is a popular film and TV show of the same name – Catfish – the highlights people who make up personas on social media in the hopes of wooing love interests. Sometimes, these online relationships go on for years, until eventually the love dissolves or the person on the other end is exposed for being someone other than who he or she claimed to be.

Elderly people are especially at risk for being fooled by someone online. Many older men and women are lonely, having lost a spouse due to death or divorce, and whose children and grandchildren are grown or busy. Social media sites like Facebook can seem like a good outlet, but it’s also a place where scammers and criminals prey on unsuspecting victims who want companionship.

According to a report on CNBC, older Americans are at risk for fraud more than other age groups. Seniors over the age of 65 are 34 percent more likely to have lost money on a financial scam than people in their 40s, the network reported, citing research by by the Stanford Center on Longevity and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s Investor Education Foundation. About one in 20 elderly respondents in a large 2014 study of New Yorkers (many who retire to Florida) reported being financially exploited at some point in their later lifetime. Only one in 44 seniors report fraud or scams; most fear their children will think they are no longer capable to handle their finances.

So where does Facebook come in? A thief befriends an elderly man or women on Facebook, and starts to communicate often. The illusion of a bond ensues, with the suspect encouraging the senior to talk on the phone or text, away from the social media safeguards that protect such things from happening directly on the site.

Commonly referred to by law enforcement officials as a “sweetheart scam,” the online friend proclaims love and explains a problem he or she needs help with. As CNBC reports:

“They have lost their passport and can’t get home unless someone can give the embassy money to process their new one, or they’re on a business trip and their briefcase was stolen, or something similar.

Many single people make new year’s resolutions to find a partner…people are feeling vulnerable. They want to be in a relationship. They want to feel love. So they go online.”

One woman was swindled out of $180,000. According to the FBI, losses from sweetheart or dating scams have doubled in the past 10 years to between $15,000 and $20,000 per victim.

So what do you do? Wisebread.com offers a few tips:

  • Don’t get involved right after you are widowed or divorced
  • Don’t send money or valuables to anyone
  • Research your new friend or love interest; pay for a background check
  • Demand to meet in person at a safe, public place
  • Be wary of early “I love yous”
  • Watch his or her grammar. Bad grammar can be a sign that someone is really from in another country, whose English is a second language, and therefore is not who he or she says
  • Ask your family and friends for input.
  • Listen to your instincts. You likely know the truth deep down.

Our experienced and trusted estate planning attorneys have been serving Treasure Coast families for decades, and Michael Fowler is one of only nine attorneys in the state of Florida who is double board-certified in wills trusts and estates and in elder law.  Contact us for your initial consultation at one of our conveniently located offices in Fort Pierce, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, and Okeechobee.

Ohio bill aims to stop financial elder abuse with the help of financial officials

Ohio lawmakers are looking at a bill that would require bank employees, accountants, real estate brokers and financial advisors to report suspected elder fraud if they see it. The measure would in effect make people who work in those financial fields mandatory reporters to adult protective services officials.

As many as five million older Americans are victims of elder financial fraud. Fraud against the elderly costs seniors millions and millions every year. Many times, the suspects are family members or caregivers. However, federal and local authorities have said very few cases are reported, so that means the number of victims and amount of money lost is much higher. Either family members don’t want to turn in another family member, or an elderly person suffers from dementia and doesn’t know what is happening to them.

Nationally, broker-dealer firms reported to authorities nearly 2,300 cases of suspected senior fraud or exploitation in 2015, according to a new North American Securities Administrators Association analysis of firms. That includes relatives with unauthorized access to seniors money.

Sometimes it’s strangers; people trying to pull an IRS scam, a Grandparent scam or a prescription drug scam. But often it’s closer to home.

Under the Ohio bill, adult protective services officials could stop the transfer of money before it happens. At the same time, the bankers, financial advisors, accountants and brokers would be protected from lawsuits, the Columbus Dispatch reports.

Joel Potts, executive director of the Ohio Job and Family Services Directors’ Association, told the newspaper the bill was called the bill would detect fraud before it becomes a problem.

“Usually we find out way too late, and there’s just not a lot we can do,” he said. “This is the future we’ve all been talking about, when baby boomers start aging and retiring.”

The bill, if it’s approved, would provide some funding that would allow a judge in a case of elderly fraud to impose a fine of up to $50,000. The fine itself would be earmarked for adult protective services, which already is strapped.

Source: http://bit.ly/2rU7afh

Our experienced and trusted estate planning attorneys have been serving Treasure Coast families for decades, and Michael Fowler is one of only nine attorneys in the state of Florida who is double board-certified in wills trusts and estates and in elder law.  Contact us for your initial consultation at one of our conveniently located offices in Fort Pierce, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, and Okeechobee.

Online prescription drug scams are cruel and dangerous

Online prescription drug scams are a prevalent form of elder abuse. Not to mention, they are dangerous.

Illicit drugs are most likely to target Americans age 50 or older, who are responsible for 71 percent of outpatient prescriptions. Crooks who once focused on drugs like Botox and Viagra have turned to lifesaving drugs, including medications for cancer, high cholesterol and mental health conditions.

According to the FDA, officials learned of people who ordered Ambien, Xanax, Lexapro or Ativan (all drugs that treat anxiety) over the internet and found that those consumers received products containing what was identified as foreign versions of Haldol, a powerful anti-psychotic drug. As a result, these customers needed emergency medical treatment for symptoms such as difficulty in breathing, muscle spasms, and muscle stiffness.

Other drugs prove to be medically worthless – placebos at best. But since 2010, nearly 1,400 adverse reactions related to counterfeit drugs have been reported. However, most people who use counterfeit or compromised medications never find out about it.

The FDA outlines signs of a safe and unsafe drug site.

Signs of a trustworthy website

  • It’s located in the United States.
  • It’s licensed by the state board of pharmacy where the website is operating. A list of these boards is available at the website of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.
  • It has a licensed pharmacist available to answer your questions.
  • It requires a prescription for prescription medicines from your doctor or another healthcare professional who is licensed to prescribe medicines.
  • It provides contact information and allows you to talk to a person if you have problems or questions.

Signs of an unsafe website

  • It sends you drugs with unknown quality or origin.
  • It gives you the wrong drug or another dangerous product for your illness.
  • It doesn’t provide a way to contact the website by phone.
  • It offers prices that are dramatically lower than the competition.
  • It may offer to sell prescription drugs without a prescription—this is against the law!
  • It may not protect your personal information.

You also can check a website to see if it has the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy’s (NABP) Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites™ Seal, also known as the VIPPS® Seal.

Our experienced and trusted estate planning attorneys have been serving Treasure Coast families for decades, and Michael Fowler is one of only nine attorneys in the state of Florida who is double board-certified in wills trusts and estates and in elder law.  Contact us for your initial consultation at one of our conveniently located offices in Fort Pierce, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, and Okeechobee.

Preventing financial elder abuse

When beloved actor Mickey Rooney died in 2014 at the age of 93, he had only $18,000 in the bank, according to media reports. He said he had been a victim of elder financial abuse by his stepson and the stepson’s wife, claiming that the couple deliberately misled him about his own finances, used threatening and abusive language and refused him basic necessities, such as food and medicine. Rooney’s conservator sued, and secured a $2.8 million stipulated judgment against the stepson and his wife.

Financial elder abuse costs its victims nearly $3 million a year. Senior are most often likely to be abused by family members, but they also are victims of fraud and telephone scams.

The Elder Justice Roadmap, a 40-page federal report that includes interviews with 750 elder abuse experts, outlines five ways to prevent elder abuse. Here is a brief look at steps to take, as listed on Next Avenue.

“1. Awareness: The report calls for an increase in public awareness of elder abuse — a multi-faceted problem that requires a holistic, well-coordinated response in services, education, policy and research.

  1. Brain health: It also wants to see more research into brain health, with an enhanced focus on cognitive capacity (and incapacity) and mental health. These are critical factors both for elder abuse victims and for perpetrators.
  2. Caregiving: There should be better support and training for the tens of millions of paid and unpaid caregivers who play a critical role in preventing elder abuse, the Elder Justice Roadmap says.
  3. Economics: The authors want to see the costs of elder abuse quantified, particularly because this national problem includes huge fiscal costs to victims, families and society.
  4. Resources: The report says the nation needs to strategically invest more resources in services, education, research and expanding knowledge in order to reduce elder abuse in America.”

Caregivers, social workers, medical professionals and financial advisors need to be aware of the signs of elder abuse and know what to do if they suspect it.

Starting in 2018, securities firms will be required to try to take steps to do their part in preventing elder financial abuse, including obtaining contact information of a person who is trusted by the elderly client.

Our experienced and trusted estate planning attorneys have been serving Treasure Coast families for decades, and Michael Fowler is one of only nine attorneys in the state of Florida who is double board-certified in wills trusts and estates and in elder law.  Contact us for your initial consultation at one of our conveniently located offices in Fort Pierce, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, and Okeechobee.

Top ten scams against seniors, according to federal ranking

The United States Senate earlier this year announced the top ten scams targeting Americans age 65 and older. At the top of the list? An impersonation scam that federal investigators have dubbed the most widespread fraud attempt in the history of the Internal Revenue Service.

The cases involved people both with the U.S. and in India, who called nearly two million elderly taxpayers and threatened arrests if supposed tax debts weren’t paid immediately over the phone. According to the IRS, as well as media reports, as many as 200 per week were swindled at the height of the scam.

Other scams that made the list, according to USA Today:

  • “Sweepstakes scams, run by perpetrators who contact victims by phone, tell them they’ve won a financial prize, and then require advance payment of a fee to collect the purported winnings.
  • Robocalls, using advanced electronic technology that enable would-be scammers to maximize the number of potential victims reached.
  • Computer scams a fraud in which callers impersonate representatives of well-known technology companies and convince victims to allow remote access to their home computers to check for problems. The scammers then charge fees to remove purported electronic viruses.
  • Elder financial abuse, in some cases involving relatives or friends who gain access to victims’ identification data, bank accounts or other records.
  • Grandparent scams, a con game in which fraudsters phone with phony claims that a grandchild is in trouble and needs help paying a hospital bill, returning home from overseas or gaining release from jail.”

More than 5 million fraud and other complaints filed with the Federal Trade Commission last year and the year before found that many older said they were victims of imposter scams, telemarketing practices and tech support scams. Seniors accounted for nearly a third of consumers who reported their age in complaints to the FTC. Financial exploitation cost elderly men and women nearly $3 billion last year. There are efforts underway to increase federal penalties for those who prey on seniors whether over the phone or in person. In 2014, Florida lawmakers revised a state law to made it easier for prosecutors to try cases of financial exploitation of seniors.

Our experienced and trusted estate planning attorneys have been serving Treasure Coast families for decades, and Michael Fowler is one of only nine attorneys in the state of Florida who is double board-certified in wills trusts and estates and in elder law.  Contact us for your initial consultation at one of our conveniently located offices in Fort Pierce, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, and Okeechobee.

Federal elder abuse on the way (hopefully)

Congress is looking at a bill that would stiffen the penalties for committing fraud against seniors.

The Elder Abuse and Prosecution Act, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and others, would also better train federal investigators and prosecutors to handle financial crimes against the elderly. The bill, if it passes, would ensure that each federal judicial district includes at least one prosecutor in charge of elder abuse cases. The U.S. Justice Department would train state and local authorities on how to recognize and make arrests in elder abuse instances.

Penalties for telemarketing and email marketing fraud against seniors would increase under the law.

“Improved collaboration, enforcement and awareness with make society a safer place for our loved ones who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect,” Grassley, 83, told the Senate Judiciary Committee in February.

A nearly identical bill failed to pass last year because senators ran out of time before the end of the session, according to media reports.

This year, if it passes the Senate and House, the Elder Abuse and Prosecution Act would allow for collection of elder abuse cases by federal authorities. Nonprofit organizations that support older people, including American Association of Retired Persons, have said that the reason so few cases of financial elder abuse are prosecuted is because there are no statistics available to back up claims that it is a huge problem in the U.S. There is nothing to base a case on.

Sen. Susan Collins, the chair of the Senate Aging Committee, is a co-sponsor of Grassley’s legislation. Collins, of Maine, also has a bill on the table to increase protections for older Americans. It would give immunity to financial advisors, banks, credit unions, brokers and others in the financial industry who otherwise would hesitate to report suspected financial elder abuse on the part of their clients, fearing a privacy lawsuit.

In 2014, Florida lawmakers revised a state law to made it easier for prosecutors to try cases of financial exploitation of seniors. The statute goes after people who use funds, assets, or property of elderly residents for personal gain. It also targets people who breach fiduciary duties, misappropriate money and fail to use a senior’s income and assets for the necessities required for their care and livelihood.

Our experienced and trusted estate planning attorneys have been serving Treasure Coast families for decades, and Michael Fowler is one of only nine attorneys in the state of Florida who is double board-certified in wills trusts and estates and in elder law.  Contact us for your initial consultation at one of our conveniently located offices in Fort Pierce, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, and Okeechobee.

Elder abuse is everywhere

Financial advisers often see or suspect that an elderly client is being swindled or taken advantage of financially — but few do anything about it.

According to a study published in Investment News,  62 percent of financial advisors came across financial abuse of the elderly, but more than half of those people admitted they failed to report it, usually because they didn’t have evidence to back it up.

The publication surveyed nearly 600 financial advisors. They said the other reason they didn’t report it is over privacy concerns or because they didn’t know who to call.

About five million older adults in the U.S. are victims of financial elder abuse annually. According to the National Committee for the prosecution of Elder Abuse, financial abuse can happen in a number of forms, including:

 

  • Taking money or property
  • Forging signatures
  • Tricking an elder into signing a deed, will or power of attorney
  • Using property and possessions, such as a car, without permission
  • Falsely promising caregiving to obtain money or property
  • Scamming and committing fraud, which can include deception, false pretense and other dishonest acts for financial gain
  • Telemarketing scams that use scare tactics – like telling an elder his or her grandchild is in jail in a foreign country and needs money to get home – and other scams to get credit card info.

The Investment News report had more said news: in 65 percent of the cases, the suspect was a family member. A caregiver was responsible a third of the time.

Nearly half of those polled felt that financial advisers had a duty to report their suspicions or findings to local authorities, even though they didn’t.  

The problem has gotten so widespread that the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is stepping in. Starting in 2018, securities firms will be required to try to take steps to do their part in preventing elder financial abuse, including obtaining contact information of a person who is trusted by the elderly client.

“FINRA views the protection of senior investors, as well as baby boomers who are retired or approaching retirement, as a top priority,” the nonprofit said in a statement on its website. “Because a large number of American investors are approaching retirement and control a substantial portion of investment assets, FINRA encourages firms to review and, where warranted, enhance their policies, procedures and practices, in light of the special issues common to many senior investors.”

Our experienced and trusted estate planning attorneys have been serving Treasure Coast families for decades, and Michael Fowler is one of only nine attorneys in the state of Florida who is double board-certified in wills trusts and estates and in elder law.  Contact us for your initial consultation at one of our conveniently located offices in Fort Pierce, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, and Okeechobee.