Valerie K. deMartino
4326 Atlantic Avenue
Long Beach, CA  90807

ph: (562) 628-0287
fax: (562) 394-9504
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by Valerie K. deMartino

As the economy worsens, cases of financial elder abuse seem to be rising. The elderly are particularly vulnerable to scams or to financial abuse by family members and care givers. A recent study found that up to one million older Americans may be targeted by abusers annually. The majority of the abusers are family members and caregivers (55%) although financial losses are higher in investment fraud scams.

It is impossible to guarantee that an elderly loved one is not the victim of financial abuse, however there are steps you can take to reduce the chances of it happening in your family. Abuse is much easier to perpetrate when the elderly person is socially isolated. One way to lower the risk of abuse is to have more than one family member involved in caring for the loved one. You can also encourage the elder to get involved in religious or community activities to ensure he or she has a wide range of support. Using direct deposit and on line bill pay is also helpful in reducing the risk that care givers will use financial information left at the elder's home. Have bank statements and credit card statements sent to a post office box or to a trusted family member. It goes without saying that you should always screen caregivers carefully and verify their references.

Financial abuse can be very difficult to detect. Elderly people frequently feel dependent upon their care givers and even when those same care givers are abusers, the elderly victim maybe more afraid of being abandoned or forced to move out of their home for lack of a care giver than he is of loosing some money. The following are some signs that a loved one may be the victim of this kind of abuse:

  • The disappearance of valuable objects from the home.
  • Withdrawals of large amounts of money, checks made out to cash, frequent ATM withdrawals, or unusually low bank balances.
  • A new "best friend".
  • Isolation from friends and family.
  • Large or unexplained credit card transactions.
  • Signatures on checks which look wrong or different.
  • A name added to a bank account, closed accounts or newly formed joint accounts.
  • Indications of fear of the caregiver.

If you suspect someone of being financially abused, there are several actions you can take:

  • Report the crime by calling your local Adult Protective Services or Elder Abuse Hotline. File a police report. Many law enforcement agencies (such as Long Beach) have a detective who specializes in elder abuse cases.
  • Explore options with a qualified attorney. The probate court can intervene if someone in the family is misusing a power of attorney or their role as guardian or conservator. Try to get a temporary restraining order from a court while building your case.
  • Contact advocacy organizations, including your local senior center.

LEGAL NOTICE: This site is designed to acquaint you with Valerie deMartino and the services she can offer. It is NOT intended to provide legal advise or create an attorney client relationship. The information on this site is intended for education and discussion only. You should consult a professional about your particular facts, circumstances and goals. Ms. deMartino is licensed to practice law only in the State of California and cannot advise you on the laws of other states. This website is not intended to be advertising and is not intended to solicit anyone desiring representation based upon viewing this website in a state or other jurisdiction where it does not comply with local laws and ethical rules.