I-TEAM: Financial abuse of the elderly can be just as dangerous

Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020
News 12 at 6 O’Clock/NBC at 7

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- For almost a year now, our I-Team has been investigating reports of physical abuse at local nursing homes.

But investigators say there's another type of abuse that often goes unchecked.

And it's one District Attorney Natalie Paine says she wants on your radar because not only is it unchecked, it's also rarely reported.

"We have seen some people in complete financial ruin,” Paine said.

It’s financial abuse, and by the time it’s on Paine’s radar, it’s often too late.

“It's always surprising to me how little people really know about their loved one's financial situation,” Paine said.

In fact, members of Congress now have a report on "Protecting Older Consumers" in their hands. By law, the FTC has to send this yearly report, thanks to the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act of 2017.

Our I-Team has a copy, too. It shows just how much age matters. The older someone is, the more money they lose. The problem is getting worse. So, someone 80 and older isn't just losing more money, it's also happening more – 55 percent more of them compared to the year before.

Also 1 in 4 people ages 70+ are likely to give cash to a family member or someone posing as a family member. But again, these are cases the FTC is tracking. There are a lot of cases where loved ones don't even know someone is taking advantage of them.

"Well, you know, whoever their caregiver is, he couldn't buy groceries this month, so I really wanted to help him out that way,” Paine said.

And that's where things get tricky. One or two times? Sure. But a pattern?

"If you look at their financials, like, hey, why are you taking out $50 out of your account every month when all of your expenses are supposed to be covered with what we pay to the facility - that type of thing,” Paine said.

But she admits, money and bank accounts can be a delicate subject. But here's what she recommends. Don't ask them for access to their money. Instead, ask for access to the records -- like the monthly statement -- so you can be an extra set of eyes to look out for scammers.

"Telling a loved one - hey, I just want to make sure people haven't gained digital access to your account, you know, something like that is a great way to prevent them from losing out financially,” Paine said.

Paine says she's seen patients run out of money because of people taking from them here and there to the point they can no longer afford the nursing home or care home. It can get that devastating if no one is watching.

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