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Financial Exploitation of the Elderly is a Growing Problem


As people age, they become more susceptible to financial exploitation by those around them. Unfortunately, these types of incidents are becoming more common and represent a growing problem in Chicago, the suburbs and the entire nation. In November 2014, the United States Department of Justice issued a report detailing violent and nonviolent crimes against the elderly between 2003 and 2013. The results and findings in this report are disturbing. While violent crimes and property crimes against the elderly has decreased, 2.1 Million persons over 65 were victims of identity theft in 2012. Only 32% of elderly victims of theft report the crimes committed against them to police.

An Elder Care Strategy Protects Against Abuse

As a result, crimes against the elderly and financial abuse of elderly persons often goes unnoticed and continues for many years. Money is taken at a slow rate from savings or retirement funds so as not to draw attention to the theft and exploitation. The predator is typically a family member, a caregiver, or a close friend who holds a position of trust with the elderly individual. Having an attorney file for guardianship is one way to combat elder abuse.

In fact, it is estimated that nearly 5 million people over age 65 are victimized to some extent by a caregiver, friend, lawyer, family member or financial advisor. Yet, the exploitation is often treated as a private matter and dismissed with little or no criminal penalty. The matters, if they are addressed at all, must be handled in civil court. Unfortunately, many older people are also reluctant to pursue legal remedies against their friends and relatives. They may feel ashamed, embarrassed, and guilty.

In an article from November 2015, the New York Times described the sad account of an 86-year-old widow in Seattle. Ms. Cooper wrote at least a dozen checks totaling more than $217,000.00 to a person who claimed to provide services as a “home organizer.” Even though Ms. Cooper’s family visited her regularly, they did not notice any issues with Ms. Cooper’s finances. Looking back, Ms. Cooper’s granddaughter wishes that she had been more suspicious of her grandmother’s new friend, who got “so close so fast.” Unfortunately, Ms. Cooper was unable to recover any of the money she lost.

With our aging baby boomer population, we can expect stories like Ms. Cooper’s to become more and more common. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 40.3 million persons were age 65 or older in 2010, an increase of 5.3 million since 2000 when the elderly population totaled about 35 million. Additionally, among the total U.S. population, the percentage of persons age 65 or older increased from 12.4% in 2000 to 13.0% in 2010. The percentage of elderly persons among the total U.S. population is projected to reach 16.8% by 2020.

Chicago Elder Care Attorneys You Can Trust

At Hays Firm, LLC, we are experienced elder law attorneys who have seen an increase of cases involving exploitation of the elderly by their friends, neighbors, and family members. If you are concerned about your elderly loved one, please contact one of our Chicago elder law attorneys. We can attempt to intervene and prevent financial abuse.