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December 19, 2011

Family Often Behind Financial Abuse of Seniors

Family often behind financial abuse
Dec 14, 2011

The financial abuse of seniors will be one of society’s most significant issues in the next decade, Canadian Centre for Elder Law national director Laura Watts predicted.
An aging population, increased forms of dementia and widespread economic illiteracy are factors in an inevitable “tsunami of financial abuse”, a federal report on the care of vulnerable Canadians published in November stated.


Elder financial abuse is most often perpetuated by family members and close caregivers, the Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care report, Not To be Forgotten, said. Conditions for a “perfect storm” of financial abuse are becoming more obvious as the first of the baby boomer generation, largely less well off than their parents, begin to retire. 

Of the 35 cases of reported elder abuse in York Region in 2011, half were financial abuse related, York Regional Police seniors safety officer Const. Robyn Kassam said.
Financial abuse of an elderly person can take many forms, Const. Kassam said.
Warning signs include money going missing from bank accounts, wills and powers of attorney being changed unexpectedly and safety deposit boxes being emptied. Other red flags are persons befriending an elderly widow or widower, title being changed, unusual transactions on credit cards, multiple bank accounts and property or securities going missing.
It doesn’t stop there, she said.
If cheques are being written and cashed, signatures forged, mail not coming to the home or if someone changes the amount on cheques, a senior is being swindled.
According to Toronto Police Services, seniors, their caregivers and those familiar with their circumstances should be vigilant when an elderly person is suddenly short of money to pay for living expenses or if the senior has been brought to sign legal documents they say they don’t understand.



Elder abuse, including senior financial abuse, is on the rise, but remains a largely hidden scourge, experts said.
Most of the reports submitted and investigated in York Region had no criminal charges laid, Const. Kassam said.
That’s not to say related charges can’t be pursued. These include theft, theft by persons holding power of attorney, misappropriation of money held under direction,  forgery, fraud, extortion, stopping mail with intent and false pretenses.
Punishment, subject to the value or amount of money involved, ranges from two to 10 years in jail.
The intricacies and consequences of a will and power of attorney deserve expert scrutiny, Mr. Kotzer said. Without protection against misappropriation of assets, you can literally be out on the street.  


Abridged
SOURCE:   The York Region News
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