Empowering Seniors to Fight Back Against Financial Abuse

piggybank.jpgFrom the time we start earning our first regular paychecks, Americans are reminded of the importance of saving for retirement. This can be incredibly hard to do. Sadly, reaching one’s senior years with a comfortable amount of savings is not the end of the story. Financial elder abuse is a growing threat to the economic well-being of older Americans. These crimes are also very personal; they strike at people’s hearts and souls, especially when the perpetrators are trusted caregivers. Our Northern California financial elder abuse law firm wants to empower seniors to fight back.

The Need for Vigilance: Woman Accused of Violating Probation Following Financial Abuse Plea
A short article in last week’s Santa Rosa Press Democrat is a striking reminder of the need for vigilance in the fight against elder abuse. In 2010, Gloria Garcia Bernal pleaded no contest to charges that she stole $6,500 from a senior citizen in her care by forging and cashing checks belonging to the elderly man. Bernal’s probation agreement prohibits her from working with the elderly or other dependent adults. Recently, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office was informed that Bernal (age 43 of Healdsburg) had been using the pseudonym Janeth Narcizo and was working at a private care facility in Windsor. Police arrested Bernal on suspicion of violating her probation and she was placed on a no-bail hold in county jail. Notably, the Windsor facility, located on Birdie Road, appears to be under the same ownership as the facility Bernal worked for at the time of her initial arrest.

A Growing Population, A Growing Threat
As the New York Times recently noted, the portion of our population that over age 65 is expected to grow from about 13% of the total population today to 20% by 2050. The rate of financial elder abuse is expected to rise right along with the population. Trusted caregivers are often the perpetrators of these crimes, wrongs that occur to seniors in all income sectors. The article suggests seniors review their accounts regularly or have someone else responsible for looking through cancelled checks and bank statements. They also recommend a system of “checks and balances” such as having two co-trustees instead of just one. Once abuse does occur, it is rarely reported, partly because of embarrassment.

Staying Aware and Watching for Signs of Abusive Financial Schemes
Forbes Magazine cites one particularly insidious case of a 103 year old having to sue her son to recover needed financial assets. While largely aimed at families who are worried about an older relative, the article’s list of warning signs can also raise red flags for seniors who may see their own situation reflected. Some questions to consider: Have you been asked to make major changes to your financial accounts? Has a financial professional asked you to move with them to a new company or make changes in your account objectives? Is someone offering you a deal that seems too good to be true or catering to you in a suspicious way (ex. treating you to free goods or services)? Have statements that used to come regularly suddenly disappeared?

Empowering California’s Seniors to Join the Fight
If you suspect you have been the target of financial elder abuse, the first thing to remember is you are not alone. Feelings of embarrassment are common, but remember that many others have been in the same shoes. Reporting financial wrongs and pursuing justice is essential for your own financial (and mental/emotional) well-being. Reporting helps keep financial crimes against seniors in the spotlight, raising awareness that can help current victims (including those who lack the ability to fight for themselves) and prevent future injustice.

As a civil law firm, we can help the targets of these scams recover lost funds and begin the process of moving forward from a painful event. Call to schedule a meeting with our financial exploitation attorney in Santa Rosa, Oakland, or San Francisco.

See Related Blog Posts:
Understanding & Combatting Financial Elder Abuse
Financial Scams Against the Elderly: From Basic Theft to Complex Fraud

(Image by Ken Teegardin)