By Catherine E. Brown
Perpetrators of elder financial abuse are often related to the elderly individual being abused. Consequently, the senior citizen may be reluctant or unwilling to report the financial abuse to the proper authorities. Therefore, it is important for concerned individuals to recognize some common warning signs of elder financial abuse and to know where to turn for help if they suspect that financial abuse is occurring.
There are two broad ways for senior citizens to become subject to financial abuse.1 First, the senior citizen could still have the capacity to make decisions regarding his/her finances, but the perpetrator exercised undue influence over the senior citizen. Alternatively, the senior citizen may have diminished mental capacity, which could prevent him/her from having the ability to consent to financial transactions. Incapacitated individuals could be subject to financial abuse either because they themselves are tricked into becoming victims, or because their agent under power of attorney or guardian/conservator are violating their fiduciary duties to the incapacitated senior and/or are abusing them financially.
Mandatory Reporting Requirements
In Virginia, certain professionals are required to report suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation of incapacitated adults to the local adult protective services department.2 This includes all medical professionals including those in the mental health field, with the exception of veterinarians; emergency medical services providers; those who have been appointed as guardians or conservators; those working for/with public or private care facilities; anyone providing care in the home, including companion services, cleaning, and personal care workers; and law-enforcement officers. Individuals who are legally required to report, but fail to do so, are subject to fines. After multiple violations of the mandatory reporting requirement, the fines increase.
Workers at financial institutions may, but are not required to report suspicions of financial abuse. People not included in the above categories are not required to report suspicions of elder abuse, but are encouraged to do so.
Warning Signs of Financial Abuse 3
The following scenarios are some examples of possible financial abuse. However, this list is not exhaustive. If you notice any other suspicious behavior, you should still consider contacting the proper authorities.
- Getting access to a senior citizen's bank accounts, credit/debit card, pension and/or Social Security checks without the elder's permission
- Withholding part of checks cashed for a senior citizen
- Asking for excessive amounts of money for rent or compensation for basic care (such as picking up food/medicine, providing transportation, etc.)
- Phone or internet scams, such as fake sweepstakes or lotteries, that use exaggerations, lies, and scare tactics to lure elders into investing
- Con artists who "befriend" senior citizens to gain their trust and obtain money
- Telemarketer calls that sell over-priced or non-existent products
- Misleading/unfair home equity agreements that could result in senior citizens losing their homes
- Home repair contractors who mislead about necessary repairs and their costs
- Fake lifelong care offers in exchange for property or money
- Using a senior citizen's possessions or property without consent
- Inappropriate financial products/services
- Forging a senior citizen's signature
- Pressuring a senior citizen to sign a power of attorney, will, or deed, or to give a gift
- Offering to split money that has allegedly been found if the senior citizen pays an upfront sum to demonstrate good faith
- Telling a senior citizen that his or her child is in jail/injured and is in need of money for bail/medical expenses
Who to Contact if Elder Financial Abuse is Suspected
- Virginia has a 24-hour Adult Protective Services Hotline, which takes calls pertaining to Elder Abuse. The hotline's number is: 1-888-83-ADULT, or 1-888-832-3858.
- Alternatively, contact the local Adult Protective Services (APS) Department. Contact information for local APS Departments is listed below.
Adult Protective Services Departments
Williamsburg Human Services
Peter P. Walentisch, Director
401 Lafayette St.
Williamsburg, VA 23185
James City County Department of Social Services
Diana Hutchens, Director
5249 Old Towne Road
Williamsburg, VA 23188
York/Poquoson Social Services
Kimberly Irvine, Director
301 Goodwin Neck Road
Yorktown, VA 23692-2112
Newport News Department of Human Services
Venerria Thomas, Director
6060 Jefferson Ave.
Newport News, VA 23605
Chesapeake Department of Social Services
S. Michelle Cowling, Director
100 Outlaw St. / P.O. Box 15098
Chesapeake, VA 23320
Hampton Department of Social Services
Wanda E. Rogers, Director
1320 LaSalle Ave.
Hampton, VA 23669
Norfolk Department of Human Services
Stephen Hawks, Director
Workforce Development Center
201 E. Little Creek Rd.
Norfolk, VA 23505
Portsmouth Department of Social Services
Jacquelyn Scott, Director
1701 High St., Suite 101
Portsmouth, VA 23704
Virginia Beach Department of Human Services
Dannette R. Smith, Director
3432 Virginia Beach Blvd.
Virginia Beach, VA 23452-4420
Suffolk Department of Social Services
Azeez Felder, Director
135 Hall Avenue, Suite B
Suffolk, VA 23434
P.O Box 1818
Suffolk, VA 23439-1818
Gloucester Department of Social Services
Beth S. Barry, Director
6641 Short Lane
P.O. Box 1390
Gloucester, VA 23061-0186
New Kent Department of Social Services
Jon Martz, Director
7911 Courthouse Way
P.O. Box 229
New Kent, VA 23124
Suspected Financial Abuse from an Institutional Care Facility
If you suspect that a nursing home, assisted living facility, or other institutional care facility is financially abusing a senior citizen, contact your local Ombudsman Program office. Contact information for local Ombudsman Programs is listed below.
Bay Aging Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program – serving the Cities of Williamsburg, Newport News, Hampton, and Poquoson, and the Counties of James City and York
100 Parker View Court
Williamsburg, VA 23188
Hampton Roads Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program – serving the Cities of Franklin, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, and Norfolk, and the Counties of Southampton and Isle of Wight
Senior Services of Southeastern VA
5 Interstate Corporate Center
6350 Center Drive, Suite 101
Norfolk, VA 23502-4121
If we can provide any additional information on this issue or assist you in any other way, please contact us.
2 Va. Code Ann. § 63.2-1606