Despite some indications of increasing public awareness, officials from one Minnesota county say that the number of cases they see involving financial exploitation of vulnerable adults continues to rise. The observation of Olmsted county social services workers seems to gibe with the results of a national study published last year that reported nearly $3 billion in losses during 2010 as a result of the financial exploitation of people over age 60. That figure factored in losses to organized efforts, such as fraudulent home improvement and trust or insurance scams, but vulnerable adults also frequently fall prey to misuse of funds by those entrusted to provide for their care and well being.
In one example cited by a social worker for Olmsted County's Adult Protective Services Division, an 88-year-old woman suffering from severe dementia fell roughly $45,000 in debt to a nursing because her son failed to pay her bills. The son apparently hoped to keep the woman's house for himself and used her Social Security checks in part to pay for maintenance. The son never bothered to apply for medical assistance on his mother's behalf, and when the nursing home finally informed Protective Services about the woman's situation, the county had to have a guardian appointed to sell the elderly woman's home and manage her financial affairs.
Although county officials say that they are occasionally alerted to incidents of financial exploitation by voluntary reporters, such as utilities companies, all too often they receive reports only after a victim has been financially drained and comes to need public assistance.
Sometimes, victims simply refuse to believe that they have been exploited, as was the case with a lonely Rochester widower who got caught up in a false friendship with a 40-year-old woman. It took intervention by the widower's bank to reveal that the woman was on probation in relation to similar exploitation schemes. In light of the various ways that financial exploitation can occur, Minnesotans with vulnerable loved ones in the family will want to keep a watchful eye for any form of suspicious activity.
Source: Post-Bulletin, "Elderly fall prey to financial exploitation, sometimes by own family," Edie Grosfield, Jan. 18, 2013