Perpetrators of financial exploitation are frequently family members, caregivers or other people who are known and trusted by the elderly. This makes many seniors who are financially exploited, even more reluctant to come forward. Perpetrators often depend on this or pressure victims to keep quiet.
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. More states 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 for seniors to secure legal representation.
Remember that the cost of financial abuse goes beyond the monetary loss. Victims and their families should access services, like counseling and case management, to help them heal after being financially abused.
Reference: Yahoo Finance (March 14, 2017) “What to Do If You or Someone You Love Has Been Financially Exploited”