- Slides: 31
Financial Exploitation of the Elderly Presented by Brian Krase Esq. , and Bonnie Dahl, Esq. Senior. LAW Center Thursday, October 13, 2011
o o o Largest provider of legal services to seniors in Pennsylvania Independent non-profit organization Serving over 10, 000 seniors each year with: o direct individual representation o legal advice, information & referral services o community legal education o professional training o systemic reform Legal staff and pro bono panel Celebrating over 30 Years of Service (1978 – 2011)
Projects and Clinics: ¡ Homeowners Assistance Program ¡ Project S. A. F. E. (Stop Abuse & Financial Exploitation) ¡ Serving Older Women Victims Of Violence & Sexual Assault ¡ Kin C. A. N. (“Kinship Caregiver Assistance Network”) ¡ The Hospice and Home Care Legal Project ¡ Fostering Connections to Kinship Care (DHS, abuse and neglect) ¡ Community-Based Legal Services, including home and hospital visits and neighborhood legal clinics throughout Philadelphia
Projects and Clinics (cont. ): ¡ Legal Services for Asian Elders ¡ Pension Rights Project ¡ Legal Services For Hispanic Elders ¡ Pennsylvania Senior. LAW Help. Line 1 877 PA SR LAW
Senior Citizens –Financial Exploitation Statistics ¡ Pennsylvania has the 3 rd largest aging population in the U. S. – 20% of Pennsylvania residents are 60+ years old (25% predicted for 2020) Older Americans Act ¡ Seniors age 60 or older account for about 15% of the U. S. Population, but comprise 30% of financial fraud victims. (FTC) ¡ Family members and caregivers steal $2. 6 billion from the elderly each year (FTC)
Financial Exploitation ¡ What is financial exploitation? ¡ Signs of Financial Exploitation ¡ Financial Exploitation of Senior can occur: l l l Without the senior’s knowledge By trickery, intimidation, or coercion, or When the senior is too confused to give informed consent
Financial Exploitation (cont. ) ¡ ¡ Why senior victims fail to report financial exploitation: Generally victims of financial exploitation are:
Financial Exploitation (cont. ) How to recognize Identity Theft and Fraud ¡ Denied credit for no apparent reason. ¡ Receive calls or letters from debt collectors about merchandise they didn’t purchase. ¡ Monitor credit reports (order quarterly – one from each credit reporting agency) Look for Unknown creditors appearing on credit report. ¡ Read all monthly credit card statements Look for unknown charges on monthly credit card statement. ¡ Monitor monthly bank statements for any unusual withdrawals.
Financial Exploitation (cont. ) What senior must do if they have been a victim of credit card fraud ¡ File a police report and ask for a copy or incident report number (DC#) ¡ Order credit report from one of 3 credit reporting agencies ¡ Place fraud alerts with each of the credit reporting agencies: Experian: 1 -888 -397 -3742 Equifax: 1 -800 -525 -6285 Transunion: 1 -800 -680 -7289 ¡ Consider credit freeze ¡ Call companies where an account has been misused or opened fraudulently. Close or flag as necessary. ¡ Prepare an affidavit of fraud (must be notarized). Send to creditor(s). ¡ File a complaint with the FTC (www. ftc. gov)
Financial Exploitation (cont. ) After senior has reported credit card fraud ¡ If no response within 30 days send a letter informing creditor that they are in violation if they continue to attempt to collect on the debt. ¡ If creditor finds there is fraud, the fraudulent charges will be wiped off the account. ¡ If creditor refuses to believe the charges are fraudulent, senior can discuss options of settling or wait until they are sued. ¡ Contact credit reporting agencies to have credit report corrected.
Financial Exploitation (cont. ) Criminal Action 18 Pa. C. S. A. § 4120 Identity Theft ¡ A person commits the offense of identity theft of another person if he possessed or uses, through any means, identifying information of another person without the consent of that other person to further any unlawful purpose. 42 Pa. C. S. A. § 9717 Sentences for offenses against elderly persons ¡ Mandatory sentence. —A person under 60 years of age convicted of the following offenses when the victim is over 60 years of age and not a police officer shall be sentenced to a mandatory term of imprisonment as follows: (relating to theft by deception)—not less than 12 months. . . sentence shall be discretionary with the court. . ¡ Request restitution.
UNAUTHORIZED USE OF BANK ACCOUNTS ¡ Notify bank of unauthorized us and confirm in writing. ¡ Revoke any power of attorney. ¡ Close all accounts ¡ Open new account at another bank ¡ Notify payers of direct deposits (e. g. Social Security & Pension) ¡ Change automatic debit payment to new account ¡ Order bank statements for period in question ¡ File a report with the police and ask for a copy or incident report number (DC#)
Unauthorized Use of Bank Accounts (cont. ) What senior can do if a victim of unauthorized use of bank account ¡ File a criminal complaint l Seek restitution l Apply for victim’s compensation ¡ File a civil complaint l Requesting damages for amount of money stolen, plus attorneys fees & costs.
JOINT BANK ACCOUNT PROBLEMS ¡ ¡ A joint account with another means that both of the joint owners have access to the money in the account. The joint owner does not need to use your money for you! There are two types of joint accounts: 1) Account held by “Senior or Another” 2) Account held by “Senior and Another”
How to Detect Exploitation of Joint Bank Account ¡ Always review your statement!
What if Senior has been a victim of Exploitation by Joint Account Holder ¡ ¡ The bank will not be liable if the owner withdrawals senior’s money and deprives senior of the funds. However, if senior can prove that it was his/her funds that contributed to the account, senior may hold the other owner liable. During the lifetime of the parties, each party is entitled to the amount in the account in proportion to their net contributions. A civil action may be filed to try and get return of the misappropriated funds
Abuse of Financial Power of Attorney ¡ ¡ ¡ A Power of Attorney (POA) is a document in which an individual grants to another the power to handle his or her affairs. The person granting the powers is called the “principal, ” and the person who is given the powers is called the “agent. ” The agent has the power to: make financial decisions powers can be broad or limited When you sign a POA, you are not “giving away” your right to act for yourself, but allowing someone else to act in addition to yourself, and make financial decisions.
Abuse of Financial Power of Attorney (Cont. ) Required Notice THE PURPOSE OF THIS POWER OF ATTORNEY IS TO GIVE THE PERSON YOU DESIGNATE (YOUR “AGENT”) BROAD POWERS TO HANDLE YOUR PROPERTY, WHICH MAY INCLUDE POWERS TO SELL OR OTHERWISE DISPOSE OF ANY REAL OR PERSONAL PROPERTY WITHOUT ADVANCE NOTICE TO YOU OR APPROVAL BY YOU. THIS POWER OF ATTORNEY DOES NOT IMPOSE A DUTY ON YOUR AGENT TO EXERCISE GRANTED POWERS, BUT WHEN POWERS ARE EXERCISED, YOUR AGENT MUST USE DUE CARE TO ACT FOR YOUR BENEFIT AND IN ACCORDANCE WITH THIS POWER OF ATTORNEY. YOUR AGENT MAY EXERCISE THE POWERS GIVEN HERE THROUGHOUT YOUR LIFETIME, EVEN AFTER YOU BECOME INCAPACITATED, UNLESS YOU EXPRESSLY LIMIT THE DURATION OF THESE POWERS OR REVOKE THESE POWERS OR A COURT ACTING ON YOUR BEHALF TERMINATES YOUR AGENT’S AUTHORITY. YOUR AGENT MUST KEEP YOUR FUNDS SEPARATE FROM YOUR AGENT’S FUNDS. A COURT CAN TAKE AWAY THE POWERS OF YOUR AGENT IF IT FINDS THAT YOUR AGENT IS NOT ACTING PROPERLY. THE POWERS AND DUTIES OF AN AGENT UNDER A POWER OF ATTORNEY ARE EXPLAINED MORE FULLY IN 20 PA. C. S. Ch. 56. IF THERE IS ANYTHING ABOUT THIS FORM THAT YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND, YOU SHOULD ASK A LAWYER OF YOUR OWN CHOOSING TO EXPLAIN IT TO YOU. I HAVE READ OR HAD EXPLAINED TO ME THIS NOTICE AND I UNDERSTAND ITS CONTENTS. Dated: _________________ PRINCIPAL’S NAME
Abuse of Financial Power of Attorney (cont. ) ACKNOWLEDGEMENT I, AGENT’S NAME, have read the attached power of attorney and I am the person identified as the Agent for the principal. I hereby acknowledge that in the absence of a specific provision to the contrary in the power of attorney or in 20 Pa. C. S. when I act as Agent: I shall exercise the powers for the benefit of the principal. I shall keep the assets of the principal separate from my assets. I shall exercise reasonable caution and prudence. I shall keep a full and accurate record of all action, receipts and disbursements on behalf of the principal. Dated: ____________________ AGENT’S NAME
Abuse of Financial Power of Attorney (cont. ) ¡ How to protect yourself l l No one watches over your agent but you. You need to be sure your agent is trustworthy. Always review your financial statements and demand disclosure. You should appoint a co-agent if you are not in a position to monitor you financial statements. They will have oversight of each other to ensure that no exploitation is occurring. Demand that the agent inform you of all his or her decisions
Abuse of Financial Power of Attorney (cont. ) Revoke if you suspect abuse! If you suspect that your agent is abusing his or her powers, you can withdraw the POA by revoking it. This revocation must be done in writing. Mail original to POA by CRRR and regular mail. Provide a copy of the revocation to all financial Institutions. Remove other party as signatory for all accounts.
Abuse of Financial Power of Attorney (cont. ) If you discover that your finances have been misused it is important to act quickly Revoke power of attorney ¡ Financial Exploitation ¡ Civil suit for damages ¡ Criminal: Theft by failure to make required disposition of funds received. ¡
Deed Transfers Some Reasons seniors may want to add someone to their deed: ¡ To avoid probate, ¡ Fear of losing their house if they go into nursing home, ¡ Want to ensure that their child(ren) will get the house.
Deed Transfers (cont. ) ¡ Cons to adding another person to deed: l Senior no longer owns the house. l A low-income senior will no longer be eligible for real estate tax rebates, discounts on utilities, or homeowner repairs grants. l A joint owner may take out a loan or mortgage against the property and senior risks losing their home if the other person stops paying the loan. l Senior cannot sell their house without the permission of the other person on the deed. l The other owner can move into the property whether senior wants them to or not. l The other owner may seek to partition the property and have court order the property sold so that the other owner can get their financial share of the property. l The other owner who does not reside in the property may request payment of rent from senior for their sole use of the property. l Medicaid eligibility may be compromised. l Judgments against other co-owner will become liens on the property.
Deed Transfer (cont. ) It is very hard to set aside a deed change, or reverse it ¡ Even if senior were sick or confused, didn’t read what he/she signed, or changed their mind later, these are not reasons that will put your deed back into their own name alone. ¡
Deed Transfers (cont. ) Best Protection of the Senior “Don’t add another person to their deed. ”
Brief Overview of Scams to be aware of Spotting an Imposter: Scammers pose as Friends, Family and Government Agencies: l l They want you to wire money: It’s like sending cash; once it’s gone you can’t get it back. They want you to pay to collect your winnings: Legitimate sweepstakes don’t require you to pay insurance, taxes, or shipping to claim what you’ve won. l They claim to be a government agent: No federal or government agency supervises or runs sweepstakes. l They claim to be someone you care about who is in trouble: Call the genuine number of the person they claim to be and check out the story. You can also ask the caller questions that stranger could not possibly answer l They want you to act now: Resist the pressure to act immediately before you’ve checked it out.
Examples of Scams l l l Bank Examiner Scam Pigeon Drop Grandparent Scam Telemarketing and Mail Fraud You’ve just won a prize Unsolicited Work New Legislation Postcard Scam Debt Relief Phishing scams Advance fee loan scams Nigerian advance fee fraud
Where to Report Fraud ¡ Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General Phone: 717 -787 -3391 Website: www. attorneygeneral. gov ¡ Federal Trade Commission Phone: 1 -877 -382 -4357 Website: www. ftc. gov ¡ FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) Phone: 215 -418 -4000 ¡ U. S. Postal Service Phone: 1 -888 -8777644 ¡ Website: www. fbi. gov Website: www. uspsoig. gov Pennsylvania Fraud Hotlines: Elder Abuse Unit: 1 -866 -623 -2137 Consumer Protection: 1 -800 -441 -2555
Bottom Line If you have been a victim of a scam, odds are you will never see your money again. Your best protection is to educate yourself to recognize a scam when you see or hear one! Great Education Materials on Scams are found at www. ftc. org