Many seniors who are exploited and abused, are the victims of people they know, often family members, caregivers or other people who they thought were looking out for their best interests. Fear of repercussions, including repeat abuse, and worries about bringing shame to themselves and their families, are two reasons why these crimes are often not reported.
As Yahoo Finance recently posted in “What to Do If You or Someone You Love Has Been Financially Exploited,” betrayal by a family member or another trusted person is especially hard on those who are financially abused. Seniors who've been financially exploited, may feel shame and guilt. Consequently, they do not feel entitled to help or support, let alone to feel victimized.
The widespread nature of financial exploitation shows that it can happen to almost anybody. There are many states that are trying to find ways to legally address financial exploitation and to better address and deter this abuse, as the population ages and an increasing number of seniors are vulnerable.
Most states criminalize financial elder abuse.
This means that, in addition to laws already in effect to prosecute theft, there are added penalties which can be filed in financial exploitation cases involving seniors or vulnerable adults, increasing the jail time for perpetrators.
Some states also now have statutes allowing older or vulnerable adults to sue specifically for elder financial exploitation. The states include Arizona, California, Florida, Oregon, Minnesota, Utah, Illinois and Washington.
A key feature of elder financial exploitation cases is that they allow victims to sue for multiple times the amount lost (usually two or three times the amount) and to recover attorneys' fees. This punishes perpetrators more and acts as a deterrent. This approach also encourages settlement of these cases. Awarding attorneys' fees is another incentive to for seniors to secure legal representation.
If someone you love has been the victim of financial abuse, it is not just a financial loss. There is a strong sense of shame and remorse. They will need counseling to work through these intense feelings, and it may take some time for their emotional health and ability to trust other people to return. They will also need patience and understanding from family members.
Reference: Yahoo Finance (March 14, 2017) “What to Do If You or Someone You Love Has Been Financially Exploited”