Fighting Financial Abuse
By Carl A. Glad, Esq.
Partner, Law Offices of Kurt M. Ahlberg
Financial exploitation is a serious threat to all seniors. A 2010 survey found that one out of every five seniors had been the victim of financial exploitation. The Department of Justice categorizes financial exploitation into two categories; those acts committed by Strangers and those acts committed by Relatives and Caregivers. The type of exploitation committed by Strangers often falls under the guise of a scam either through the phone, internet, or a door to door salesmen. Exploitation committed by Relatives and Caregivers involves manipulation or theft. This kind of exploitation is harder to identify and therefore harder to prevent. As the percentage of those over age 65 increases this problem will only continue to grow.
The State of Connecticut has been proactive in trying to prevent and respond to financial elder abuse. The Department of Social Services administers the Protective Services for the Elderly Program. The Program is meant as a safeguard for seniors that are being abused. Protective Services will investigate claims of abuse and in extreme circumstances will ask a Probate Court to intervene. Connecticut also recently increased the number of individuals known as Mandatory Reporters. These Mandatory Reporters are required to report potential abuse to Protective Services. This list places this requirement on many individuals including but not limited to doctors and medical providers, law and enforcement officers, and importantly individuals that work at municipal Senior Centers. While the State does provide safeguards, it is important that you also protect yourself.
At a recent event held by the Town of Stratford Department of Senior Services, the importance of relying on yourself was a central focus. A detective from the Stratford Police Department said that just like locking your house and car doors and wearing a seatbelt you should rely on your own common sense to prevent financial exploitation. There are legal tools that an attorney can help put in place to protect yourself. These tools include putting your affairs in order through a Last Will and Testament, a Power-of-Attorney, and a Conservator in Advance. However, the most important defense is to avoid isolation. If you are lonely you are vulnerable. Maintain relationships with your children, siblings, trusted friends, your attorney, or your financial planner. When you are considering making a gift, appointing a Power-of-Attorney, or changing your Will you should discuss this with those trusted individuals. Keeping a support network will help to prevent someone from taking advantage of you without your knowledge.
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