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What is Financial Exploitation?


As our population ages, abuse of the elderly has risen. Abuse takes many forms. Elderly people are often victims of physical, emotional, or financial abuse. This article focuses on the financial abuse or exploitation of older individuals. The perpetrators of such abuse are often people that the elderly individual has trusted or even loved. An older person who has been a victim of abuse often feels shame. They are embarrassed and humiliated that they placed their trust in a certain individual. Or, they are sad that a loving relationship was soured by financial or emotional abuse.

As a result, only 32% of elderly victims of theft report the crimes committed against them to police. 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 care giver, or a close friend who holds a position of trust with the elderly individual. 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.

Some signs of financial abuse of an elderly individual include:

  •        Withdrawals from bank accounts which your loved one cannot explain;
  •        A new “friend” who is spending a lot of time with your loved one;
  •        Your loved one making purchases or spending money on their new “friend”;
  •        Missing financial statements;
  •        Bills being left unpaid.

If you or a loved one is a victim of financial abuse or theft, we encourage you to report the theft to local law enforcement agencies. Many states have an agency dedicated to reviewing reports of elder abuse. In Illinois, elder abuse may reported to Adult Protective Services.

Sometimes financial exploitation of the elderly is treated as a private matter and dismissed with little or no criminal penalty. These types of 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. Others do not want to engage in a lengthy or contentious legal battle during the golden years of their lives.

Many states, like Illinois, have laws that provide for both criminal and civil liability. To learn more about the Illinois Financial Exploitation of the Elderly Act that protects elderly individuals, please read our article . 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. We have successfully recovered monies for our clients and have helped to create a support system to protect our clients and their loved ones from future abuse.

If you believe that you or a loved one has been the victim of financial exploitation, please contact one of our attorneys for a free one hour consultation. We can attempt to intervene, recover stolen property or funds, and prevent financial abuse. Please let us know how we can help.