By C.H. “Chuck” Slemp, III
Slemp is the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Wise County and the City of Norton.
Would you be able to spot the signs that someone is a victim of elder abuse?
Unfortunately, evidence of abuse is not always easily recognized. That’s because the most common form of elder abuse is financial exploitation. It is a growing epidemic in our country and senior citizens are especially vulnerable to these crimes. Your loved one, a friend, or a neighbor could be suffering the devastating effects of abuse in silence.
Last year alone, over 31,000 instances of elder abuse were reported in Virginia. According to the National Center on Aging, approximately one in ten Americans over age 60 is a victim. Even with these staggering statistics, experts believe that elder abuse is significantly underreported. Financial exploitation costs seniors between $2.9 and $36.5 billion annually.
So, what are the most common red flags of financial exploitation?
Any unusual banking activities could be a sign of abuse. Requests to send bank statements to an unknown third party, suspicious signatures on checks, excessive spending and sudden insufficient funds activity, transactions at new locations, wire transfers which are not normal, or an increase in the number of ATM withdrawals could be a sign of serious trouble. Statistically, financial exploitation is almost always committed by a family member or caregiver. Thus, watch out for requests for additional debit cards for a “new” person, frequent or excessive gifts to a “caregiver,” the use of a power of attorney to conduct business on behalf of the senior, or sudden changes in title of property to a third person.
A new Virginia law took effect last month that allows financial institution staff to report suspected elder abuse without fear of civil or criminal liability. Banks can also now block or hold suspicious transactions to investigate suspected financial abuse.
Seniors who have been abused have a 300% higher risk of death when compared to those who have not been victimized. So, take the time to understand the signs of abuse. If you suspect someone is being exploited or abused, report it to your local department of social services or law enforcement. You might be helping safeguard someone’s life-savings or, more importantly, saving their life.
To learn more about these “red flags” and ways to protect vulnerable adults, consider attending a day-long training in Abingdon, Virginia on August 30, 2019. For more information or to register for the event, visit https://swvalegalaid.regfox.com/2019-elder-abuse.