Financial Elder Abuse Scams On The Rise

While fraud, scams and financial exploitation does not discriminate based on age, our seniors are hit the hardest every year.  An estimated $36 billion is stolen from older adults annually due to financial elder abuse.  Financial elder abuse scams are on the rise and are becoming more prevalent each year.  This is why it is now considered to be the biggest crime in the 21st century. 

*This blog is for educational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. The use of the Paths Law Firm website does not constitute a client-lawyer relationship.

Sadly, most financial elder abuse scams are never reported and the ones that are reported can be very difficult to prosecute.  This makes our seniors a high-risk target for what is considered a low-risk crime to criminals.  Financial scams can be devastating to anyone, however, for seniors, the results can be far worse.  It can leave them in a vulnerable position without the ability to recoup funds for their retirement. 

What is Financial Elder Abuse?

Financial elder abuse is when the financial resources of an elderly man or woman are taken advantage of or misappropriated.  This type of exploitation can be done by trusted advisors, caregivers, family members, and scammers. This is a form of fraud that deprives the older individual of the access or use of their assets, belongings, benefits, and resources.  In short, financial elder abuse is when one person takes advantage of an elderly person for the first person’s own personal financial gain.

Who Commits Financial Elder Abuse?

The volume of financial elder abuse is on the rise.  Sadly, the abuse is often carried out by someone close to the victim.  Surveys show that 66% of all financial elder abuse is carried out by family, friends and trusted individuals.  This list can include the following:

  1. Family members
  2. Friends
  3. Neighbors
  4. Caregivers
  5. Health care providers
  6.  Banks and other financial institutions
  7. Strangers 

credit card fraud financial elder abuse

What Are the Different Types of Financial Elder Abuse?

A “scammer” is a person who commits fraud or participates in a dishonest scheme.  There are many different types of financial abuse employed by scammers.  Below are a few of the more common scams used on the elderly.

Email Phishing Attacks 

With up to the minute news and media coverage on the novel corona virus, cyber criminals are now using the pandemic to their advantage with phishing attacks to exploit fear.  The email messages that are being sent to the elderly identifies that the sender is from reputable organizations providing information about the virus.  The email may include attachments or links as the latest statistics on COVID 19. Once the attachment is opened or the link is clicked malicious malware is then downloaded to the receiver’s computer.  This malware could allow cyber criminals to take over your computer, log keystrokes, and even access personal and financial information. This type of attack can result in identity theft.

exploitation elder abuse

Identity Theft 

With identity theft, a thief steals the identity of an individual to open up fraudulent accounts.  These accounts are lines of credit or credit cards in the victim’s name. This is done by stealing the senior’s social security number and other vital information.

Loan Scams

Loan scams usually involve predators pressuring older homeowners into taking out high-interest loans or reverse mortgages.  The loans are fraudulently represented, leaving the elderly homeowner in a bad financial position. These loans are not in an elderly person’s best interest and can cost them emotionally, financial strain and even the loss of their home.

Investment Scams

Investment schemes, also known as “get rich quick” scams are a popular form of theft.  Here, the victim is convinced they will make double (or more) on the money they invest.  Sadly, in these types of scams, the thief ends up stealing the victim’s life savings.

Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams

Sweepstakes and lottery scams are when someone claims to be associated with a prize contributor or lottery.  They initiate contact with the victim notifying them they have won a prize or give hope they will soon win. This type of scam usually ends in the scammer asking the victim to send in money to pay for the taxes for the money that they have won.  The Lottery or sweepstakes scam is a growing threat.    

Home Repair Scams

Home repair scams are also very popular.  One type of home repair scam is when the scammer approaches an elderly homeowner and tells them that they have recently completed a job in the neighborhood and that they have leftover materials.  The scammer tells the victim that they need to pay upfront and will be back to do the job. The scammer takes off with the money, and never performs the work paid for. 

Utility Company Scams

Utility scams occur when someone impersonates an employee from a utility company. This may be the gas, water, electric or cable company with whom the victim is familiar.  The impersonator calls stating that they are trying to collect on a past-due bill. In this type of scam, the impersonator will use intimidation and may even tell the victim their utilities will be turned off if they do not pay the bill.  For this to work, the victim is coerced to pay over the phone with their credit card or debit card.

elder abuse utility company scams

Grandchildren Scams

While all scams are sad, one of the more heartbreaking financial abuse scams is when a thief contacts an older person and pretends to be their grandchild and asks to borrow money.

Power of Attorney Scams

The person that is granted power of attorney can abuse their power.  When this happens, the abuser uses their designation to acquire assets, money, and possessions that were not intended for them. 

Bank Cards or Check Scams

 Bank card or check fraud can happen when a caretaker or family member has access to a senior’s accounts.  This allows them to withdraw money and make purchases fraudulently.

Threat of Violence Scams

Elderly individuals that are unable to defend themselves become a target of threats and violence in exchange for assets or money.  This type of abuse also includes friends or family who imply, or may overtly, threaten to withhold care as well.
Threat of Violence Scams

elderly man being threatened

What are the Effects of Financial Elder Abuse?

The effects of financial elder abuse can be extreme for seniors.  Not only are they impacted financially but they are also impacted emotionally.  The victim loses their trust and becomes skeptical of even those who help them. They may start feeling depressed, fearful, angry or even ashamed.  Also, there is always the worry of depleted health, stress, and destructive behavior. The loss of finances can impact their assets, residence, to the point of their inability to pay for utilities or afford proper health care and nutrition.

Why Do Seniors Fall Prey to Financial Scams?

 According to research, 53% of Americans stated that financial elder abuse would compromise their ability to live a longer,  financially secure life. In the survey, 47% of seniors manage their own finances, thus leaving them open to financial abuse.  Only 1 in 4 seniors invite a family member or trusted advisor into conversations about their finances. A great way to protect against financial elder abuse is to have a durable power of attorney, however, it was cited, only 16% have one in place.    

dementia and alzheimers

Everyone wants the ability and dignity to age gracefully and to maintain their independence for as long as they can.  But with more than 10,000 people in the United States turning 65 years old every day, and the number of people with dementia and Alzheimer’s is rapidly increasing, this is an increasingly enticing target for the scammer.   Thus, leaving them open to financial abuse, deceit, and manipulation.  As people, we are living longer lives than in the past and with that longer retirements.  Collaborative help for seniors is required to protect them and their life savings. Along with a durable power of attorney, a complete Estate Plan designed to protect assets is a way to safeguard the future of loved ones.  If you or your loved ones do not have an Estate Plan in place, Paths Law Firm is here to help.  We will work with you to set up a plan that meets your needs.       

What Steps can Seniors Take to Safeguard Against Financial Elder Abuse? 

Regardless of awareness of the new scams that pop up each day, many seniors recognize that they need to further protect themselves and their families financially.  That includes protecting their personal information and wealth. Here are some steps that can help to safeguard seniors against financial abuse.

  • Be Aware of Who is Asking for Your Information.
  • Never respond to texts, emails or telephone calls asking for personal information.
  • Only provide personal financial information when you initiate a phone call.
  • Never click on links in emails from unknown senders.
  • Make it a priority to review credit reports frequently.
  • Set up alerts for banking and financial institutions related to questionable transactions on accounts. 

An Elder Law Attorney Can Help Seniors Plan Ahead

Our seniors face complex and legal concerns that are often different than concerns in their earlier years.  And, having an impartial third party to listen to your concerns and provide options and solutions, provides an additional level of protection for the future. 

It’s important that seniors work with an attorney that is an expert in Elder Law.  An Elder Law attorney will have the expertise necessary to fill the needs of seniors and issues of elder abuse as this attorney will have the most experience or familiarity with these scenarios. 

An Elder Law attorney can help with things such as elder abuse and estate planning, including planning for the management of one’s estate during life and its disposition on death using trusts, wills, and other planning documents.  In addition, an Elder Law Attorney can provide many other services to include things such as:

  • Preservation/transfer of assets
  • Nursing Home Medicaid
  • Medicare claims and appeals
  • Social security and disability claims and appeals
  • Supplemental long-term health insurance issues
  • Disability planning
  • Durable Powers of Attorney
  • Living Trusts
  • Last Wills and Testaments
  • VA and Other Benefits
  • Conservatorships and guardianship’s
  • Probate
  • Administration and management of trusts and estates
  • Long-term care placements in nursing home and life care communities
  • Nursing home issues including questions of patients’ rights and nursing home quality
  • Retirement, including public and private retirement benefits, survivor benefits, and pension benefits

Protecting You From Financial Elder Abuse

At Paths Elder Law, we use a holistic approach when providing legal advice and take into consideration the issues that seniors face.  We aspire to a higher level of professional practice standards and provide our clients with peace of mind in the legal advice we provide to them.  If you or someone you know has become a victim of financial elder abuse, Contact Paths Law Firm to schedule a consultation.      

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Community Relations

Jeane M. Fracassa

Community Relations

Jeane M. Fracassa

Jeane Fracassa – a dedicated and accomplished professional who retired with an impressive 38-year service record from the Kansas City Missouri Police Department. Throughout her illustrious career, Jeane served as a Civian Supervisor in the Communications Unit, where she played a pivotal role in ensuring efficient and effective communication within the department.

Even in retirement, Jeane’s commitment to community service remains unwavering. Currently, she serves in various capacities within Community Relations at Paths Law Firm. Actively engaged in the Lee’s Summit and Overland Park communities, she proudly represents the law firm.

In all aspects of her life, Jeane Fracassa exemplifies the values of community, compassion, and family. Her commitment to making a difference and her love for exploration make her a remarkable individual, whose presence brightens the lives of those she encounters. Whether at work, with family, or during her travels, Jeane’s genuine care for others and her zest for life make her a truly remarkable and inspiring person.

Administrative Assistant

Laura E. Messer

Administrative Assistant

Laura E. Messer

Laura is the Law Firm’s marketing assistant, supporting all marketing tasks, including managing calendars, researching upcoming events, updating marketing software and spreadsheets, and partnering with organizations to maintain relationships that benefit Paths Law Firm’s clients.  Laura is also the law firm’s professional photographer as she provides the professional photographs for the headshots, organizations, events, and networking.

Laura has over 10 years of experience as a professional photographer.  She is also Adobe and Microsoft Certified.  She graduated from Columbia College, Columbia, Missouri with her Bachelor of Arts degree, Magna Cum Laude, in Behavioral Psychology (minors in Social Work and Criminal Justice), and her Photographic Craftsman degree from Professional Photographers of America. She is certified as a Qualified Mental Health Professional, Certified Gentle Teacher, Medicaid Billing Certified, Crisis Intervention Counselor, and a Missouri Notary.

Laura has been married more than 26 years and has a daughter and a son. She has four brothers, a niece, and a nephew. Her four spoiled pets that love her attention. A lot of Laura’s off time is spent taking photos and she is an internationally published photographer. Laura owns a studio on the historic Independence Square. 

Administrative Assistant

Holly D. Bramble

Administrative Assistant

Holly D. Bramble

Holly is our newest member of the administrative team. She is hardworking, has proven organizational skills and excellent communication skills. Holly has transitioned to the Estate Planning field from healthcare administration where she gained valuable knowledge that has contributed to her success here at Paths.

Holly enjoys spending time with loved ones, cheering for the Chiefs, and relaxing on the beach.

Administrative Assistant

Tressa L. Purdy

Administrative Assistant

Tressa L. Purdy

Tressa has the important role of being a client’s initial point of contact as the law firm’s receptionist for all locations.  She also welcomes, assists, and cares for clients at the Lee’s Summit office. Additionally, she provides support in an administrative capacity for the attorneys, staff, and clients.  When you meet Tressa, the first quality many note is her readiness to be of assistance.

 

Tressa is a graduate of Park Hill High School with extensive administrative experience and executive level management. Tressa brings a stability and comfort to the law firm experience having worked in a variety of industries and having lived in six different major metropolitan cities.

 

Tressa has a daughter, two sons, and one grandchild.  In her free time, she enjoys her family and friends, loves being outdoors, gardening, bike riding and bird watching. Indoor hobbies include scrapbooking, painting cookies, and cheering on Chiefs football. She is a Kansas City native but enjoys traveling but is always happy to be back in her hometown.  

Attorney

Kathleen E. Overton

Attorney

Kathleen E. Overton

Kathleen Overton is an attorney and owner at Paths Law Firm. She has more than 17 years of experience advocating for those with special needs and navigating the state and federal agencies formed to help the disabled and elderly. At Paths Law Firm, Kathleen’s practice focuses on helping the elderly qualify for nursing home Medicaid, creating estate plans to protect beneficiaries, as well as a lot of time planning and forming businesses. Kathleen also enjoys helping clients form non-profit organizations and obtain 501(c)(3) tax exempt status.

 

After attending law school at the University of Oklahoma, Kathleen began representing clients before the Social Security Administration. Eventually her practice switched to federal court appeals and Kathleen spent years representing clients before the Eastern and Western District of Missouri, the District of Kansas, and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Kathleen has since focused her practice on estate planning and elder law after watching clients struggle to find ways to financially care for loved ones with special needs or aging parents.

 

Kathleen lives in the Northland with her husband and four children. She spends her free time attending soccer matches and ballet performances with her children and starting endless home improvement projects with her husband. 

Medicaid paralegal

Tena K. Dooley

Medicaid Paralegal

Tena K. Dooley

Tena is a Medicaid Paralegal.  She is very meticulous and organized.  She works closely with the attorneys, clients, and State representatives. 

Tena has an associate in applied science and has over 20 years of office management experience. She has two daughters and one grandson.

Tena enjoys spending time with her family.  She enjoys everything outdoors and her hobbies include fishing and gardening.

PARALEGAL & ACCOUNTANT

Sydney R. Morris

PARALEGAL & ACCOUNTANT

Sydney R. Morris

Sydney is the law firm’s internal accountant and one of their experienced paralegals having been with Paths Law Firm since 2017. She is a primary point of contact for estate planning and business planning.

Sydney graduated with honors from the University of Missouri Kansas City in 2022 with her Bachelor of Science Degree in Accounting. She is a Bloch Launchpad, Phi Theta Kappa, and National Honor Society alumni.

In her free time, Sydney enjoys spending time with her husband, reading, baking and going on long walks. 

SENIOR ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT

Christy L. Phillips

SENIOR ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT

Christy L. Phillips

Christy has three years of experience in elder law working for seniors and their families. She is currently the Senior Administrative Assistant and organizes the day to day functions of the office and makes sure everything runs smoothly. When asked why she loved what she does, Christy said at Paths Law Firm, she gets the opportunity to help clients in more ways than one. Her favorite parts of the job are getting to know the clients and helping them get their questions answered. 

Christy’s experience in the finance industry has been extremely beneficial to her role as the Senior Administrative Assistant. Christy has a special place in her heart for the elderly and attributes this to the relationship she had with her grandparents. 

Christy was raised in Ogden, Utah and moved to Independence, MO, when she was ten years old. She has been with her high school sweetheart for 25 years and they have two beautiful children together. Her daughter works in the medical industry, and her son currently attends High School and plays Baseball. When Christy is not working, she enjoys crafting and spending time with her family and friends.

Christy’s experience in the finance industry has been extremely beneficial to her role as Benefits Coordinator. There have been many influences that went into her decision to select the field of Elder Law. Christy has a special place in her heart for the elderly and attributes this to her relationship with her grandparents.

When asked why she loves what she does, Christy said that at Paths Elder law, she gets the opportunity to help clients in more ways than one. Her favorite part of her job is getting clients approved for Medicaid or VA benefits as it is a huge relief for them and their loved ones.

Christy was raised in Ogden, Utah, and moved to Independence, MO, when she was ten years old. She has two children that keep her busy and fill her life with joy! Christy’s daughter cheers for Avila University, and her son plays competitive baseball for the Bucks and races BMX locally for the Motorcycle Closeout Team.

When Christy is not working, she enjoys crafting and making homemade gifts for her loved ones and raising her kids to be healthy, happy, and positive humans.

 

Practice Areas

  • Medicaid Benefits
  • VA Benefits

 

Professionalc Memberships and Affiliations

  • Missouri Notary

FINANCIAL MANAGER

René A. Fracassa

Rene A. Fracassa, Paths Law

FINANCIAL MANAGER

René A. Fracassa

René is the Financial Manager at Paths Law Firm overseeing all aspects of revenue, expenses, and financial planning. She is also responsible for general office management, including assisting in many of the administrative matters that periodically arise. 

 

René earned her Bachelor of Science in Hotel and Restaurant Management from Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg, Missouri and soon thereafter worked her way through management at The American Restaurant where she worked almost 17 years before relocating to the country of China.

 

René is the Financial Manager at Paths Law Firm overseeing all aspects of revenue, expenses, and financial planning. She is also responsible for general office management, including assisting in many of the administrative matters that periodically arise. 

 

René earned her Bachelor of Science in Hotel and Restaurant Management from Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg, Missouri and soon thereafter worked her way through management at The American Restaurant where she worked almost 17 years before relocating to the country of China.

 

René is the Financial Manager at Paths Law Firm overseeing all aspects of revenue, expenses, and financial planning. She is also responsible for general office management, including assisting in many of the administrative matters that periodically arise. 

 

René earned her Bachelor of Science in Hotel and Restaurant Management from Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg, Missouri and soon thereafter worked her way through management at The American Restaurant where she worked almost 17 years before relocating to the country of China.

 

René is the Financial Manager at Paths Law Firm overseeing all aspects of revenue, expenses, and financial planning. She is also responsible for general office management, including assisting in many of the administrative matters that periodically arise. 

 

René earned her Bachelor of Science in Hotel and Restaurant Management from Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg, Missouri and soon thereafter worked her way through management at The American Restaurant where she worked almost 17 years before relocating to the country of China.

 

In her spare time, René is currently quite active managing multiple generations of her family, including parents and grandkids.  René has had great impact on the lives of many women teaching discipling and teaching and abundance of Bible Studies. Her former career in management and event planning trained her well to juggle all the activity.

MARKETING MANAGER

Hilary R. Tichota

MARKETING MANAGER

Hilary R. Tichota

Hilary plays a vital role in managing the Marketing Department at Paths Law Firm.  She is excellent at bringing new ideas and sharing valuable resources with the law firm and our community. Hilary has been with the law firm since the beginning, working in nearly every role which is invaluable in her marketing endeavors as she brings a unique set of skills into the Marketing Department.

Hilary is nearly complete in her Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in Marketing at Park University.  She has earned the honor of being listed in National Honors Society, Phi Theta Kappa, and the Dean’s List. Hilary is always looking for new and innovative ways to share the law firm’s message.

While not working, Hilary spends her time with her family at their rural home. They tend to their chickens and honeybees and enjoy the solitude of country living.

SR. PARALEGAL & OPERATIONS MANAGER

Jennifer A. Bronson

SR. PARALEGAL & OPERATIONS MANAGER

Jennifer

Jennifer is the Sr. Paralegal and Operations Manager at Paths Law Firm.  She oversees the firm’s probate department as well developing, implementing, and managing all the firm’s administrative processes having been with the law firm almost from the beginning.  She enjoys client contact as well as behind-the-scenes operations.

 

Jennifer began her legal career in 1990 as a legal secretary.  She has worked in small and medium sized firms, as well as court operations.  She has her Paralegal Certificate from Boston University, Law Office Management Certificate from University of Central Missouri, and she is a Master Financial Coach. 

 

Jennifer has two daughters, twin sons, and twin grandsons.  She spends as much time as she can with them.  She enjoys reading, listening to podcasts, and tending her yard. 

ATTORNEY

Russell A. Fracassa (Rusty)

ATTORNEY

Russell A. Fracassa (Rusty)

When asked what he wants to do, his reply was “I just want to sit at the kitchen table and work directly with people.” Rusty enjoys working with clients providing experienced advocacy and supporting them through their unfamiliar and overwhelming situations. Due to all the challenges faced by seniors, it is essential to work with an experienced elder law attorney who has expertise in the law, issues, and concerns affecting seniors and their families.

Rusty brings more than 30 years legal experience and expertise working for seniors and their families as an elder law attorney in Kansas City and surrounding. Prior to law school, Rusty was an accountant and his first couple years practicing law was as a tax attorney. This provides invaluable experience in his current practice of law. Rusty’s focus is helping protect seniors’ assets from taxes and long-term care costs, benefit qualification, and navigating more complex family scenarios in their estate planning.

Rusty has personally experienced the loss every parent fears, caring for a spouse suffering with cancer and the treatment, and working with aging parents through all stages of their lives.  He intimately understands the challenges faced by individuals and their caretakers when capacity or health declines, how to prepare for it, and the legal matters while in the midst of it.  He may not be able to eliminate his client’s grief, but he strives to provide clients with peace of mind.

In 2010, Rusty’s faith and love led him and part of his family to China as Christian missionaries. He and his wife, went permanently, but ended up dedicating 3 years to that ministry. They returned to Missouri to help with grandchildren after a family tragedy and later began anew with Paths Elder Law. The goal is providing compassionate care through legal advocacy.

Rusty has multiple degrees and advanced study spanning his Bachelor’s of Arts in Business Administration – Accounting at Rockhurst College (now Rockhurst University), Masters of Arts in Accounting and in Intercultural Studies, as well as his Juris Doctorate from the University of Missouri at Kansas City School of Law.

When Rusty is not practicing law, he enjoys spending time with his family, grandchildren, and excessive eating at local restaurants.

Practice Areas

  • Wills and Trusts
  • Estate Planning
  • Asset Protection
  • Medicaid Benefits
  • VA Benefits
  • Probate
  • Guardianship and Conservatorships
  • Education

 

BSBA and Master’s in Accounting, Master’s in Inter-Cultural Studies, and Doctorate in Juris Prudence

  • Rockhurst University
  • Liberty University
  • University of Missouri – Kansas City


Admissions to Practice

  • Missouri


Professional Memberships and Affiliations

  • State Bar of Missouri
  • National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (long-time Member)
  • Elder Counsel (Charter and Ongoing Member)
  • Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys (Past Member)
  • Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association
  • Missouri State Bar Committees – Elder Law, Estate Planning, Probate