Elder Abuse Results in $2.9 Billion Loss Per 2011 Report

A June 2011 by the MetLife Mature Market Institute (MMMI) reports that older Americans lost $2.9 billion as the result of elder abuse. This is a whopping 12% increase from the previous year. Financial Elder Abuse.jpg

A common practice among banks is to allow older customers to use signature stamps (especially for those clients who find it more difficult to sign their names on forms, etc.)

The MMMI report is a sobering reminder that elder abuse comes in many forms–not only physical and emotional, but also financial. However, if a signature stamp fall in the wrong hands, it can do much more than wreak more than a little havoc to one’s finances. Case in point: Ms. Isenberg.

Ms. Isenberg’s daughter, Liz Sanders, hired a caregiver for her bedridden mother. This caregiver, Ms. Wofford, slowly drained over 3/4 of $1 million from Ms. Isenberg’s accounts. Wofford wrote herself checks and withdrew from Wofford’s life insurance. In addition to racking up tens of thousands of dollars in debt at various department stores, Ms. Wofford treated herself to a Mercedes courtesy of Ms. Isenberg–unbeknownst to Ms. Isenberg and her daughter.

When Liz Sanders found out about how Wofford had victimized Ms. Isenberg, she also learned that restitution was not a reality. However, she was determined to make it less easy for such financial abuse to occur to other elderly Californians. She went to her state senator, Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), and put together California Senate Bill 586, which would have doubled the penalties for elder and dependent adult abuse in California. It added new provisions for the issuing of signature stamps by state-organized banks and credit unions.

The legislation passed easily, backed by the AARP along with other advocates for seniors and the CA Senior Legislature. Yet, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the bill last week. His message with the veto was that he did not believe that the bill would prevent fraudulent use of stamps. Brown pointed to another bill that increases penalties for elder abuse embezzlement, forgery, and identity theft as sufficient.

Liz Sanders says she pursued the legislation to find justice for her mother, and also to protect other seniors who might be at risk. The process helped spread the word about this problem throughout California and the United States.

Please heed Sanders’ plight and stay mindful of common signs of financial elder abuse:

  • Unusual financial activity, abnormal purchases, unpaid bills
  • An individual seems neglected physically or his/her home seems neglected
  • An elderly person asks to add a new name to bank accounts or seeks other co-signing arrangements
  • An individaul is granted power of attorney, although the senior may not have known that person for a long period of time
  • Increasing isolation of a senior along with decreasing contact with family members/friends
  • The emergence of a sudden “new best friend,” especially of someone who is much younger than the senior.

Better to err on the side of caution and report any suspicions to local authorities, which often have a division that focuses on assisting seniors.

About Kevin
Kevin Coluccio was recently named one of the Top 10 Super Lawyers in Washington State. He has long history of successful elder abuse/neglect cases and has a stellar reputation for getting results for his injury clients in serious car crashes, pedestrian accidents, trucking accidents, maritime claims, and asbestos injury cases.