Protecting Vulnerable Senior Citizens and their Money
As you are probably aware, there are a growing number of crimes that put your finances and/or personal information at risk. The number one target of most of these scams are the elderly. There is a growing number of baby boomers reaching an age when they are reliant upon others for help. Scam artists know this and are targeting them to steal their money.
One of the crimes that is becoming a bigger problem is elderly financial abuse. In fact, according to the American Bankers Association, at least $2.9 billion was lost in one recent year alone from this crime of elderly financial abuse.
What is Elderly Financial Abuse?
Abuse of an older person that unrightfully takes money from them is considered abuse. Not only that, it is newly considered a crime in the state of Kansas. This was declared a criminal act by the Kansas legislature about a decade ago. The law has been updated several times including in 2018 for the purposes of expanding protection. Early on, this statute only pertained to mistreatment of dependent adults. More recent legal revisions that add the wording “mistreatment of an elder person” expands protection to a greater number of elderly people. While one of the later updates included any person over the age of 70, in 2018 that was changed to protect people age 60 or older. These elderly persons who are now included may not necessarily be considered dependent but may still be relying upon the assistance of others in various lesser ways.
Specifics of the Kansas Financial Abuse Law
What this Kansas State law describes as a crime is when someone takes “the personal property or financial resources of an elder person for the benefit of the defendant or another person by taking control, title, use or management of the personal property or financial resources of an elder person…”
What are the Signs of Financial Abuse?
Some of the ways a person violates the financial rights of an older person is to make financial decisions for the victim by using “undue influence, coercion, harassment, duress, deception, false representation, false pretense or without adequate consideration to such elder person.” Another criminal act is to deprive the treatment, goods or services that the elderly person needs for their physical or mental health.
Punishment for People Guilty of Elder Financial Abuse
The person committing this criminal act could face severe punishment. The degree of punishment they face depends greatly on the amount of money (or value of property) taken from the elderly victim. If at least $1,500 was stolen, the person faces a serious felony conviction.
Concerned a Loved One May be a Victim of Financial Abuse?
If you are worried an older person is being taken advantage of, it’s important to look into what is causing your concerns and, if needed, provide help. It can be hard to determine when actual financial abuse is happening. After all, an elderly person may be needing to give money to others legitimately for the care they require. Sometimes the elderly person is just being generous and is not a victim of coercion or other type of pressure.
Below are a variety of situations that could indicate an elderly person may be a victim (or potential victim) of financial abuse. However, none are proof of a crime. These scenarios may help you better assess the situation and, when necessary, be on alert. It may indicate you should take additional steps, which you will read more about below.
Situations to watch for:
A NEW PERSON AROUND: Has someone new suddenly become involved and/or interested in the finances of the elderly person? Has a friend of family member who doesn’t have adequate financial means asked about or gotten involved with the person’s finances?
BILLS GOING UNPAID: Is the person the elder is relying upon not buying the items needed for proper care? Are utility bills not being paid? If the elderly person is no long getting what they need for living and/or care, that should be a concern that something is wrong.
UNFAMILIAR ARRANGEMENTS: If purchases or financial decisions are being made without the elderly person’s knowledge, that may be a sign of financial abuse. Has the elderly person expressed concern they are missing money?
SHIFT IN FINANCIAL CONTROL: Have credit card bills or other bills been rerouted to someone else’s address? Is the elderly person not allowed to handle matters at their own bank? Is a different signature being used on checks from their account? Unless permission was given, these could be red flags.
GIFT GIVING: Is the elderly person supplying gifts of high value to someone? This, in of itself, doesn’t mean they are being taken advantage of. Was the elderly person also supplying these sorts of gifts before they become more vulnerable and/or in need of assistance? If that’s the case, that is not likely a red flag that there’s a problem. Also, if the gift appears to be a reasonable one to give by that person, that would not typically indicate there is a crime.
RELIGION INSTEAD OF MEDICINE: The law makes clear it is NOT a crime for an elderly person to receive prayer or spiritual assistance in lieu of medical treatments as per that elderly person’s religious beliefs of a recognized church. This circumstance can’t be the sole consideration for suspected criminal behavior.
What to do if you Suspect Abuse
If you encounter any of the above situations, you should be on alert to potential abuse. However, it does NOT necessarily confirm that abuse is happening. Financial matters may become complicated for an elderly people. Others may be relied upon to help with an elderly person’s financial matters. The older person may not in control of or knowledgeable about some money issues due to mental health issues or other difficulties.
Seek to learn more. If you are worried someone is taking advantage of an elderly person, talk to that elderly person. You may learn more about the current situation to confirm that the right and proper decisions are being made for the benefit of that person. Or you may become more suspicious someone is victimizing the elder.
If you do suspect abuse, contact state of Kansas. The Kansas Department of Human Services is the name of a department, newly announced in 2020, to handle issues affecting aging Kansas citizens. This state department combines the services once held by the Department for Children and Families with the Department for Aging and Disability Services and the juvenile division of the Department of Corrections.
To get one-on-one assistance, you can contact the state agency that handles wellbeing issues for the elderly. They have a call center you can reach out to at 1-855-200-2372. You can speak with someone about your concerns of elderly abuse and get information and resources to help.
Let Kansas Elderly Care Professionals Help
If a loved one is struggling with remaining independent in their own home, you may want to consider options for their care. They may not be ready to move into a nursing home facility but be aware that there are many other options outside of a nursing home placement. Find out about different types of elderly care as well as assessment checklists to help you determine what specific care your loved one needs in our Elderly Care Guide.
At Mount Hope Nursing Center in Kansas, we put all our residents first. You can trust our trained and professional staff with the care your loved one needs. Call (316) 667-2431 or contact us online. Mount Hope Nursing Center has handled the care for senior citizens in central Kansas for nearly half a century. We are happy to answer any questions you might have or support you in any way we can.