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Protecting Your Loved Ones: What to Do If You Suspect Financial Exploitation of a Family Member


What To Do If You Suspect Financial Exploitation of a Family Member

Suspecting that a family member may be a victim of financial exploitation is a distressing situation. Whether it's an aging parent, a vulnerable adult, or someone with diminished mental capacity, taking swift and decisive action is crucial to protecting their financial well-being and dignity.

 

Recognizing the Signs

 

Financial exploitation can take many forms, including unauthorized use of funds, coercion to change wills or estate plans, or deceitful practices to gain control over assets. Signs of exploitation may include:

 

  • Sudden changes in financial accounts or assets

  • Name of caregiver on loved one’s accounts

  • Unexplained withdrawals or transfers of money

  • Checks made to cash

  • Missing personal belongings or valuables

  • Unpaid bills despite having enough resources

  • Changes in behavior or demeanor, especially around certain individuals

  • Isolation from friends and family

 

Common Characteristics of the Abuser or Exploiter

 

  • Reacts inappropriately in situations with loved one

  • Has a sense of entitlement to loved one’s money

  • Expresses unrealistic expectations of the elder; blames the loved one that things they can’t control are deliberate

  • Relates contradictory history when talking about loved one

  • Unwilling to allow others contact with the loved one; loved one not allowed to talk with others without abuser in the room

  • Aggressive behavior (threatens, insults or harasses)

  • Previous history of abuse to others

 

Steps to Take

 

1. Gather Information

Begin by writing down any behaviors or situations that are consistent with abuse or exploitation.  In addition, collect any relevant documents or records that may help substantiate your concerns, such as bank statements, legal documents, or communication records.

 

2. Consult with an Attorney

Seek advice from a legal professional specializing in elder law or financial exploitation. They can guide you on the best course of action and help protect your loved one's interests.

 

3. Report the Situation

If you suspect criminal activity or abuse, report it to the authorities without delay. Contact the local Area Agency on Aging or the police to investigate and intervene if necessary.

 

4. Contact Financial Institutions

Inform banks, credit card companies, and other financial institutions about your concerns. They may be able to freeze accounts or take other measures to prevent further exploitation.

 

5. Secure Assets

If possible, take steps to secure your loved one's assets, such as changing account passwords or implementing stricter access controls.

 

6. Document Everything

Keep detailed records of all conversations, actions taken, and any evidence of exploitation. This documentation may be useful in legal proceedings or investigations.

 

Preventative Measures

 

To prevent financial exploitation of someone in your life who might be vulnerable, consider the following steps:

 

  • Gather family members to talk about how they can work together to help your loved one.

  • Suggest that more than one person have access to accounts so there are a second set of eyes to identify exploitation before it gets out of hand.

  • Encourage your loved one to have a power of attorney prepared giving someone who is trusted to manage their financial affairs.

  • If the loved one has diminished mental capacity, a guardianship proceeding may be needed to manage finances on behalf of your loved one.

  • Appoint a trusted contact who you authorize a bank or financial institution to get in touch with about questionable activity on your account, or if they are unable to reach you.

  • Set up direct deposit for income sources to avoid the need for physical checks.

  • Tech tools such as EverSafe and LifeLock can detect suspicious activity — like missing deposits, unusual withdrawals or abrupt changes in spending patterns.

  • Make sure their important legal documents are in a safe place.  Protect usernames, passwords and PINs.

 

Conclusion

 

Financial exploitation of a family member is a serious issue that requires prompt action. If you suspect someone is the victim of exploitation, contact the experienced Elder law attorneys at Fiffik Law Group.  We can help you recognize the signs and advise you on proactive steps to protect your loved one's assets, you can help prevent further harm and ensure their financial security. Remember, you are not alone – we are here to support you through this difficult time.

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