Financial Exploitation Swindles Seniors Out of Billions Each Year

Nursing Home CareWyoming-The elderly can face numerous abuses both in their homes and long term care facilities, but a growing concern is financial exploitation. A large majority of elder abuse cases involve financial exploitation and costs the elderly billions each year.

Some cases of financial exploitation are perpetrated by trusted relatives who have a sob story or by a staff member at a long-term care facility

Alyse Ann Penner of Moorhead, Minnesota was a social worker in North Dakota who assisted victims of elder abuse.  Penner’s job as a social worker apparently made her seem trust worthy so she convinced her grandmother to give her control of her finances.

Penner was given access to her grandmother’s bank accounts and was in charge of paying the elderly woman’s bills. But instead of paying the bills, Penner was slowly depleting her grandmother’s account.

Penner’s grandmother had no idea what was going on with her finances until her rent check bounced in September. That’s when she contacted authorities and discovered that her granddaughter had ripped her off to the tune of $20,000.

Penner told investigators that she began spending her grandmother’s on herself about five months before her grandmother realized what was going on. She spent the money on daycare, shopping, eating out and salon visits.

If convicted of financial exploitation of an elderly person, Penner could face up to 10 years in jail and $20,000 in fines. But that won’t help her grandmother who has lost a good chunk of her retirement funds.

Instead of being an isolated incident, Penner’s exploitation of her grandmother is common; approximately 60 percent of elder abuse cases involve financial exploitation. According to MetLife study on Elder Abuse and Financial Exploitation, elderly victims are fleeced for approximately $2.9 billion annually, and many of them don’t realize it until their life savings is gone.

The MetLife study found that 51 percent of cases of financial exploitation are perpetrated by strangers. Family, friends and neighbors were the exploiters in 34 percent of cases. Businesses who exploit the elderly accounted for 12 percent of cases.

Financial exploitation is also common in nursing homes especially among staff members who access to credit card and bank account information.

In a recent in-depth investigation, USA Today found numerous incidents in which office staff at nursing home facilities across the country stole hundreds of thousands from patient trust fund accounts. When the thief is discovered, they can face criminal charges, but the elderly person is left to wonder who they can trust.

These various staff members were able to steal money from these vulnerable seniors because there is little oversight of patient trust funds. Long-term care residents whose trust funds are misappropriated are fortunate in that insurance will typically replace the missing money. But when it is a family member or friend, the victims may never get their money back. An elder abuse attorney can file a civil suit to recoup the missing money from the unscrupulous individual.