Category: Elder Exploitation

Tips for Aging Children to Help Keep Florida Seniors Safe from Sweetheart Scams

Are you familiar with romance scams or sweetheart scams that seem more prevalent during the month of February and threaten Florida seniors? Are you a senior adult or have senior adult parents? Are you aware that scammers and cyber criminals often target senior citizens? Online senior scams have risen and continue to be extremely dangerous.

The question needs to be asked, why are senior adults more likely to be victims of a scam? We need to look at several different factors. First, aging seniors are believed to be more vulnerable. Secondly, they are known to often have large amounts of money in accessible accounts and be very trusting and easily manipulated. Thirdly, with the advent and use of the internet by senior adults, cyber criminals find it easier to target them and fool them. To make matters worse, scammers tend to target seniors when they are most vulnerable. During Valentine’s Day romance scams are prevalent and this shows us just how much aging adults, suffering from loneliness and social isolation, are at an elevated risk.

Are you a senior and wondering how you can protect yourself? Do you have a senior loved one in your family that you are concerned about? We would like to share eight tips you may use to avoid a “lonely heart” senior scam.

1. Be cautious when someone you do not know contacts you online. The person you see or you are communicating with may not be who you are really dealing with. Online cyber criminals are looking for older victims to begin a romance scam using social media, online dating or friendship websites.

2. Remember this golden rule: Seniors should always be suspicious whenever someone online attempts to gain their trust and affection if they have not met in-person.

3. Senior adults should never provide their personal information or send money to someone they have met only on the internet. Do not let anyone convince you to do so via social media, email or any other online forum.

4. If you meet someone on social media, like Facebook, and this person wants to quickly move to a private form of communication such as text or email, immediately become suspicious and do not agree.

5. You should absolutely never send intimate photos or videos of yourself. Scammers can use them to try to blackmail or embarrass you.

6. If you do plan to meet someone in person that you met online, be safe and bring someone with you and meet the person in a public place. Also, let your family, friends and caregiver know of your intentions.

7. If the person you met online addresses you by the wrong name, it may be a red flag that something is wrong. Scammers often work on several victims at once.

8. Be sure to tell family, friends, caregivers and neighbors immediately about your online experience if you think you are in contact with a potential scammer. Do not let embarrassment get in the way of protecting yourself.

9. Do you think you have fallen victim to a Valentine’s Day romance scam? It is never too late to call the police and your appropriate financial institution, let them know what happened so they may get involved and protect you.

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys, PA, is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Jupiter, as well as Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River Counties in Florida. Our law firm will guide you through legal challenges involving elder law, estate planning, trusts, veterans benefits, real estate, and more. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys.

7 Types of Elder Abuse Affecting Millions of Seniors

On June 15, the United Nations is spearheading a global campaign to raise awareness and fight back against elder abuse. The growing epidemic impacts millions of American seniors every year, and many more worldwide. Through World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, international organizations, governments, citizens, and professionals across the country are taking a stand and actively seeking to reduce the problem.

 

One of the most important areas to focus on is education. Each of us needs to understand exactly what elder abuse is. In fact, confusion is one of the main reasons why elder abuse is often underreported. Elder abuse is defined as “any knowing, intentional or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable elder adult.”

 

Understanding that elder abuse exists is just the first step. Did you know, however, that there are seven variations of elder abuse to be aware of? Let us share more on this important topic with you right here in our blog.

 

  1. Physical Abuse. The use of physical force that results in bodily injury, physical pain or impairment. Signs can include bruises, welts, and bone fractures, and the withholding of important medications.

 

  1. Emotional Abuse. The infliction of pain, anguish or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts. This can include insults, threats, intimidation, humiliation and harassment. 

 

  1. Sexual Abuse. Sexual abuse is often defined as non-consensual sexual contact of any kind. This is illegal at any age, and it is often wrongly assumed that older adults are not in danger of this type of alarming behavior.

 

  1. Confinement. The restraining or isolating of an older adult against his or her will, or in violation of his or her basic health needs.

 

  1. Passive Neglect. A caregiver’s failure to provide basic necessities, ranging from food, to clean clothing, to sanitary conditions and medical care, and more.

 

  1. Willful Neglect. This is the intentional deprivation of fundamental human needs, such as medical care, food and water, physical assistance and prescribed medications.

 

  1. Financial Exploitation. The misuse or theft of an elder person’s financial resources.

 

We know that this information may raise a number of questions for you and your aging loved ones. If you suspect an elder loved one is the victim of abuse, do not wait to contact the proper Florida authorities. Let us know your elder care concerns and how we can help you and your loved ones.

Is There an Increased Chance of Elder Abuse for Florida Seniors with Dementia?

Today, one in ten Americans has dementia. Dementia “is a general term for loss of memory and other mental abilities severe enough to interfere with daily life. It is caused by physical changes in the brain. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia, but there are many kinds.” This is a growing epidemic as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts that the number of people with dementia will triple by 2050.

While you may be familiar with the idea of dementia as an illness impacting Florida seniors, you may not realize the correlation between elder abuse and dementia. Dementia patients are at an increased risk of elder abuse in large part due to the disease they are facing. These symptoms can include, but not be limited to, decreased cognition, a lessened ability to communicate, and diminished ability to use reason and judgment. Unfortunately, this can make them prime victims for abusers.

There is a pattern in intentional abusers to find and isolate seniors who are afflicted with memory loss. While these abusers may be strangers initially to the senior, they work to make themselves integral to the senior on a daily basis before the abuse begins. Seniors, especially with dementia, are often isolated from family and need an increasing amount of assistance over time with activities of daily living such as preparing meals, cleaning, and walking. Scammers who would harm a person know this and strategically place themselves in a position of dependence with the senior.

Not all abuse, however, is intentional. It may be easier to work to prevent intentional elder abuse than unintentional. This factor must be considered and understood when planning on how to proactively help Florida seniors with this diagnosis. Signs of unintentional abuse may include:

-Frustration on behalf of unprepared and overworked caregivers
-Anger and outbursts manifesting from the newly diagnosed senior
-Retaliation for the sudden aggressive behavior from the senior
-Refusal of assistance on both sides of the caregiving equation

Remember, elder abuse can take many forms including, but not limited to, financial, emotional, and physical abuse, as well as, neglect and isolation.

One of the keys to success is to both understand the problem and work together to prevent it. There is never a wrong time to report suspected abuse of a Florida senior with dementia. In Florida, we may report abuse by calling 800-962-2873 or you may click this link.

We are here to help you face this issue and plan forward to proactively address the need for long-term care assistance both now and in the future. Do not wait to schedule a meeting with our law office on how we may be able to help you and the Florida seniors in your life.

How to Protect Yourself From Sweetheart Scams This February

February can be an emotional month for some Older Americans. The Valentine’s Day holiday can create feelings of loneliness and isolation, which unfortunately leaves some seniors more vulnerable to scams. One such scam, the Sweetheart Scam, tends to increase in frequency during this time. This type of scam occurs when a scammer forms a relationship with a senior solely for the purpose of extorting them from money. This relationship is more commonly formed online, and the senior typically never meets their romantic interest. This often leaves the senior even more vulnerable and hurt. We know you care about protecting the senior you love both now and in the future. To help you do this, let us share a few ways to help your senior loved one avoid falling victim to Sweetheart Scams.

First, it is important that your senior loved one understands what a Sweetheart Scam is and the common elements of this type of scam and scams in general. This will hopefully help your loved one be able to identify if he or she is being targeted. Being a victim of a scam can be an emotional and embarrassing ordeal for your loved one. Encouraging your loved one to talk to someone they trust, whether that be a close friend or family member, if they have suspicions about a person they are involved with can help prevent the senior you love from becoming a victim.

We encourage you to remind your loved one that there should never be a valid reason that a romantic interest should need access to their bank information or Social Security Number. Often, the criminals involved in these scams will ask for money multiple times. If the senior sends money, it is likely that the criminal will continue to ask. Unfortunately, we often see that the romantic interest will disappear once they have received the money they asked for or the senior begins to get suspicious. This typically leaves the senior hurt, vulnerable, and even more lonely than before they were targeted by the scam. It is also important to remember that your senior loved one may experience long-lasting effects from the scam, particularly if the criminal received your loved one’s Social Security Number. Lastly, encourage your loved one to always be skeptical of people they meet online, until they are fully able to verify their identify and intentions.

Above all, one of the most effective ways to help protect your senior loved one from scams is by encouraging them to create a comprehensive Florida estate plan. If you have questions or are ready to help create a plan for your senior loved one, do not wait to contact our office.

What Signs of Elder Abuse Should You Watch For?

Elder abuse is a crime that no one thinks will happen to their loved ones, but unfortunately it happens all too frequently. In the United States alone, research tells us that more than half a million elder abuse cases are reported each year and millions more go unreported. Elder abuse often originates with someone that the senior knows well and trusts, which can include family members and caregivers.

Seniors deserve to live in safety. Unfortunately, as we age we can become physically, emotionally and mentally more vulnerable. It is critical to find ways to support the seniors in your life with strategies to prevent abuse, even when they live far away.

What steps can you take to be proactive when it comes to protecting your senior loved ones? First, be prepared and learn more about the many forms of elder abuse. Elder abuse can include physical, emotional, or sexual harm as well as financial exploitation or neglect. While these signs can be hard to notice at first, let us share a few characteristics to be on the lookout for with your senior loved ones.

1. Unexplained signs of injury on your loved one.

Not all injuries are abuse but they should raise a warning flag. For example, there are illnesses and medications that cause seniors to bruise or bleed. If your loved one does not have a condition or does not take a medication that could cause this issue, any unexplained signs of injury could suggest elder abuse. Be on the lookout for bruises, welts and scars. In addition, broken bones and dislocations, reports of drug overdose or failure to take medicine, broken eyeglasses and signs of being restrained could also be signs of elder abuse. Further, any injury that is unexplained should always be a red-flag.

2. The caregiver refuses to allow you to see the elder alone.

This is suspicious behavior. There are very few valid reasons why you should be prevented from seeing your senior loved one. This may suggest the caregiver does not want you to take a good, uninterrupted look at the elder. If he or she continuously distracts you and does not want you to get too close to the elder, the caregiver may be trying to distract you from visible signs of abuse or neglect. Insist on seeing your loved one alone.

3. The elder begins to behave as if he or she has dementia.

While this may seem strange, dementia-centric behavior in a senior who does not have this illness can be a sign of abuse. These signs can include, but not limited to, rocking, sucking on a thumb or mumbling to themselves. Unexpected changes in behavior patterns like this can suggest the senior is being emotionally abused by the caregiver and is trying to cope under the circumstances.

4. Suspicious changes to finances or estate planning documents.

If there are significant withdrawals from the elder’s bank accounts, sudden changes in his or her financial condition, or suspicious changes to a last will and testament or power of attorney, financial exploitation may be at play. If you suspect this is an issue, you will want to speak candidly with your senior loved one to determine what is the cause of this behavior. Unfortunately, the caregiver may be taking advantage of the elder’s resources. Be sure to plan ahead and work together with your loved one to monitor all financial activity closely.

For a case study of what can happen with this check out an article written by the NY Times.

5. Lack of proper hygiene.

If you notice your elderly loved one is dirty, unbathed or is living in unsanitary conditions, there is a tremendous potential for neglect. Be aware that neglect, in this instance, can be self-inflicted and may signify a cognitive decline has arised. If, however, a family member or a caregiver is responsible for keeping the elder hygienic and providing suitable living conditions it may be time to step in.

Unfortunately, elder abuse continues to impact seniors across Florida. If you are a loved one of an elder being taken care of by another person, be sure to keep a watchful eye for any potential issues. Check-in frequently and establish daily communication. If you need more information about elder abuse or any elder law issue, do not wait to contact us today.

Help Seniors Prevent Scams This Elder Law Month

May is National Elder Law Month. This month, and every month, our goal is to ensure that seniors have the support they need to live healthy, full, and safe lives. This includes not only planning for their future with Florida estate planning and long-term care planning solutions, but ensuring they are safe from any potential threats.

 

Right now, research shows us that seniors or “Older Americans”, continue to be one of the most targeted groups by criminals. “Older Americans” are those people who are over the age of 60 living in America. As a generation, this group is more targeted by scammers because they are perceived to be less aware and more easily taken advantage of.

 

One of our goals this month is to ensure that Older Americans are aware of scammers who are trying to take advantage of them. We want to share with you several of the scams that are on the rise and continue to target Florida seniors month after month.

 

1. Mail scams. As a generation, Older Americans are one of the last remaining groups to still read every piece of mail they receive. Seniors are considered more trusting of mail. This is why scammers will send incentives, threats, and overt promises to seniors in the mail. As a senior, you need to be extremely discerning of the mail that you read. Do not provide financial information through the mail and avoid providing your private information to anyone you do not have a personal connection to.

 

2. Utility Bill Scams. The utility bill scam continues to be on the rise. In the utility bill scam, the scammer calls the senior or sends a letter telling him or her that unless money is paid immediately, the senior will lose his or her utilities. This can be a terrifying prospect for a senior. Should you receive any type of communication like this, do not interact. Instead, contact your utility company independently to ask questions. Do not use the number or address provided by the potential scammer.

 

3. Hurricane insurance scams. In Florida specifically, hurricane insurance scams are on the rise. Through this type of scam a fraudulent insurance company pretends to be able to provide additional support and security to Older Americans. You may receive a phone call or a piece of mail promising complete coverage in the event of a storm in exchange for information and money right now. While there are valid types of hurricane insurance, do not trust a phone call or a piece of mail. Instead, talk to a licensed insurance provider before taking a step forward.

 

4. identity theft scams. Today, there are more and more identity theft scams targeting seniors. The goal is for the senior to give up valuable, private information that will enable the scammer to take his or her identity and access all assets. Only provide information online in limited circumstances where you know it is safe to interact. In addition, consider investing in a security protection service that will monitor your identity and ensure it is not taken by a predator.

 

We know how challenging facing any of these scams can be. If you have questions or know of a scam you feel we should be aware of, do not wait to contact our office. We are here to support you and your family and make sure you do not fall victim to any of these crimes.