The elderly are often targets of various types of financial abuse. In some cases, the person who is financially exploiting an elderly person is a relative, trusted friend, or caregiver. In other cases, professional con-artists bilk elderly people through promises of romance, investment scams, or mortgage fraud. Both state and federal laws can protect the elderly and prosecute their abusers. Government agencies also offer services to combat elder abuse.
Social Security Fraud
Some elderly recipients of Social Security benefits are unable to manage their money on their own. In such cases, the Social Security Administration appoints a "representative payee", who may be a friend, neighbour, or relative, to collect the elderly person's Social Security payments. The representative payee is legally obligated to first use the benefit funds to pay for the recipient's food and shelter needs, and any remaining funds can be used for clothing, recreation, and medical expenses. If a representative payee uses the Social Security payments for anything other than the needs of the recipient, she may be committing Social Security fraud. The Social Security Administration has established a Fraud Hotline, as well as an online form that concerned people can use to report their suspicions about how a representative payee is using someone's Social Security funds. (See References 5)
Some states regard crimes against the elderly, including financial abuse, as deserving of "enhanced penalties". In New York, individuals who scam the elderly are sometimes prosecuted under hate crimes laws. In other states, individuals who commit financial elder abuse can be required to pay additional civil penalties and/or face harsher sentencing on criminal charges. (See References 1 and 6)
Most states have expanded their "mandated reporting" laws to include elder abuse. These laws require certain people, usually those in the legal, social services, or health care professions, to report suspected abuse. In some states, bankers and financial professionals are also mandated reporters, as they may be the first to notice irregularities that can point to the financial exploitation of an elderly person. (See References 2)
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