October is Elderly Financial Exploitation Month

By Grace Ortiz, Faith Based Adult Protective Services Community Engagement Specialist

When we think of October what comes to mind is fall. Our days are getting shorter, the temperature is cooling down, the leaves are changing color, and everyone is gearing up for the next holiday, Halloween.  But there is something that we as a community should all be thinking about as well, our elderly population and ensuring that they are doing well and keeping safe. 

This October, the State of Texas is working to raise awareness about ways we can help prevent, recognize and report elderly financial exploitation. The effort is being led by Texas Adult Protective Services, and the rallying cry is “If it is not your money, it is a crime.” To learn more and find ways you can get involved, visit http://www.dfps.state.tx.us/everyonesbusiness/.

 While emotional abuse, physical abuse, neglect and abandonment are frequently used forms of elder abuse, financial exploitation is the most common and fastest growing form of elder abuse. Anyone can take advantage of the elderly whether they are a caretaker, a family member, neighbors, attorneys, bank employees, doctors, or nurses. The mistreatment of vulnerable adults is widespread and can even become deadly.

What is Financial Exploitation?

Financial abuse is the theft or mismanagement of an elderly person’s funds, real estate, investments, or personal property and are misused by an individual for their personal gain or benefit. Like all abusers, financial elder abusers perceive the elderly as vulnerable and unlikely to fight back or expose the abuse. Financial abuse can be a one-time incident, or it can continue for many years. These situations happen when the elderly adult has limited, or zero knowledge of their financial resources being mishandled.

Here are some common signs of financial elder abuse:

  • Money Missing from Accounts
  • Unusual Use of Credit Cards
  • Unpaid Bills, Collection Letters, Lack of Food in House
  • Missing Possessions
  • Sudden Changes in an Elder’s Mood or Demeanor

Who Commits Financial Elder Abuse?

Like most people who exploit or abuse others, elder abusers frequently develop close relationships to their victims and use these trusting friendships to gain access to the victim’s assets. Common abusers include:

  • Family Members 
  • Caretakers
  • Neighbors
  • Professionals
  • Con Artists

Nobody is above suspicion when it comes to abuse and exploitation. While paranoia is unhealthy, so is being too trusting. Both elders and those who care about them need to be wary of who they trust.

Bottom line, protecting the elderly from becoming victims is everyone’s business. We are all in this together and must work as a community to protect the vulnerable in our community.  If you know an elderly or disabled individual who you believe has been a victim of financial exploitation, please make a report to Adult Protective Services by calling 1-800-252-5400, or online at www.txabusehotline.org.

Adult Protective Services (APS), a program of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), validated 950 cases of exploitation in Texas fiscal year 2019, and 929 cases in 2018.

Austin has a long tradition of helping our fellow Texans in need. By increasing awareness of elderly financial exploitation, we can go a long way in helping our vulnerable population live their lives free of the fear of having their money and possessions stolen.

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