A Louisiana woman is in jail for stealing her 84-year-old grandmother’s identity and purchasing over $100,000 in computers, home improvements and several vehicles. It is the latest case that highlights a growing trend in society: financial abuse of the elderly.
Authorities believe Alyson Jones may have depleted her live-in grandmother’s savings account and maxed-out her credit cards which were recently opened in the grandmother’s name. The grandmother suffers from dementia.
According to KEEL News Radio 710, Jones is charged with eight counts of money laundering, four counts of identity theft, 11 counts of felony theft and one count of racketeering.
Financial abuse of the elderly is growing, and will only intensify as our population ages.
According to a 2011 MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse, the estimated annual financial loss by victims of elder financial abuse is over $2.9 billion.
Elder financial abuse occurs when someone commits unauthorized use of an elderly person’s funds or property. This exploitation can be done by an outside scam artist through phony prizes, charities, or investment fraud. Abuse can also come from a caregiver, friend or family member that steals cash or household goods, engages in identity theft, or misuses checks, credit cards or other financial accounts.
The MetLife study shows that strangers were involved in 51 percent of the fraud cases, while family members, neighbors and friends took part in 34 percent of the crimes.
If you are a senior citizen, or help care for a senior citizen, it is important to know the signs of financial abuse. They can include a significant or unexplainable withdrawals from the elder’s accounts; items or cash missing from the house; questionable changes in wills, titles, policies, and power of attorney; addition of names to financial accounts or credit cards; and changes in shopping patterns. Suspicious purchase of goods, services, or subscriptions.
Here are some tips on how to prevent financial abuse of the elderly:
* Make sure financial and legal affairs are in order. If they aren’t, enlist professional help to get them in order, with the assistance of a trusted friend or relative if necessary.
* Keep in touch with family and friends and avoid becoming isolated, which increases vulnerability to elder abuse.
* Shred or dispose of papers with personal information such as charge receipts, bank statements, expired credit cards or new credit card offers.
* Do not give out your Social Security number or personal account numbers unless you made the first contact and know the institution.
* Guard credit cards. Watch sales people, wait staff and anyone who asks for your credit card. Anyone who handles a credit card may be able to get access to financial records when they swipe a senior’s credit card for a purchase.
* Close unneeded lines of credit and cut up those discontinued credit cards.
* Reduce junk mail and unsolicited credit card offers to reduce your chance of identity theft. Call toll-free 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688) or do this online.
* Get on the National Do Not Call Registry to reduce telemarketing calls. Visit their website or call 888-382-1222 to register your phone number.
* Hold monthly meetings to go over financial statements, bills, and credit card accounts.
* If you are concerned about the abuse of credit cards, switch to a prepaid card. The deposit determines the spending limit.
* Before making a large purchase or investment, talk it out with someone you trust. Don’t be pressured or intimidated into immediate decisions.
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