Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Elderly Are Often Easy Targets of Financial Abuse

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Elderly Are Often Easy Targets of Financial Abuse

Article excerpt

Matt Yanni was taken aback recently when a stranger called on behalf of one of his elderly clients and asked the Franklin Park financial adviser to move money from her investment account to her bank account.

Mr. Yanni asked the caller if he had a power of attorney, a legal document that authorized him to act on behalf of Mr. Yanni's client. The caller said he did and promised to send it, but never did, according to Mr. Yanni, who decided to do some investigating. In the meantime, the financial adviser refused to transfer any funds.

By talking with his client, he found out the caller not only had a power of attorney, but also was listed jointly on her bank account and had been named in her will. Quick action by Mr. Yanni and the Pennsylvania Department of Aging, which investigated the incident, put everything back in order. The caller no longer has power of attorney, is off the bank account, and the will has been revised.

Although many cases are not reported, the price tag on financial abuse of the elderly tops $2.9 billion annually, according to a 2011 study by MetLife's Mature Market Institute. Researchers found women were almost twice as likely to be victims than men and that most victims were between 80 and 89 years old, lived alone, and needed help with either health care or taking care of their home.

The abuse occurs because the victims are lonely, vulnerable and confused. The perpetrators can be family members who want to preserve an inheritance they think they are entitled to or acquaintances who feel they deserve to be compensated for helping someone. Elder law experts say being aware of these circumstances is one way to prevent abuse.

"You need people out in the community involved in the person's life who are vigilant," said Martha Mannix, director of the University of Pittsburgh's elder law clinic.

Waiting until someone is impaired or incapacitated complicates the process of looking out for an elderly person's best interests. Elder law experts say people should identify family members they can trust before that happens and give them the legal authority to act on their behalf, said Sally Hurme, an elder law attorney with AARP. …

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