elder abuse fraud

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.      

Educational Seminar at Paths Law Firm

Paths Law Firm provides a Free Educational Elder Law Seminar every month to help you plan for your future.

Administrative Assistant

Ryan D. Foley

Ryan Foley at Paths Law

Administrative Assistant

Ryan D. Foley

Ryan graduated from the UMKC School of Law in 2018 and passed the Missouri Bar that year. Prior to law school, Ryan attended the University of Missouri – Columbia where he attained a degree in Business. He is a Kansas City native, growing up in the Northland where he achieved his Eagle Scout rank by doing a project for his high school. During his time in law school, Ryan was introduced to the practice area of Elder Law by one of his professors and has been

Ryan enjoys working with and educating clients to provide advocacy and support during the unfamiliar and often overwhelming probate process. Ryan understands the challenges faced by individuals when faced by the uncertainty and complexity of government systems or even handling a Trust during a time of grief, and he strives to make the process as easy as possible.

Administrative Assistant

Makaylee A. Morelli

administrative assistant at Paths Law

Administrative Assistant

Makaylee A. Morelli

Makaylee is currently working on her bachelor’s in political science and hopes to soon start law school as an aspiring attorney. In her free time, she loves to spend time with her friends and family but most importantly her dogs Taffyta, Tallulah Belle, and Harry. Their favorite thing to do is go on coffee dates and get pup cups.

Attorney

Kathleen E. Overton

Kathleen Overton, attorney at Paths Law

Attorney

Kathleen E. Overton

After starting her career as a disability attorney, Kathleen transitioned into estate planning at a mid-sized regional law firm. Kathleen joined Paths Law Firm in 2021 when she decided to return to a boutique law firm that provides excellent service and quality to clients. Because of her background as a disability attorney, she brings a thorough understanding of public benefits to each client meeting. At Paths Law FIrm, Kathleen focuses on traditional estate planning and business entity formation, providing tailored advice unique to each client’s situation.

Public Benefits Assistant

Tena K. Dooley

Public Benefits Assistant

Amanda D. Martin

I have my Associates in Applied Science and have over 20 years of office management experience. I have two daughters and one grandson.

During my time away from the office I enjoy spending time with my family.  I enjoy almost everything outdoors and my hobbies include fishing and gardening.

PARALEGAL

Sydney R. Morris

Paths Law elder law in Kansas City

PARALEGAL

Sydney

Sydney is currently enrolled at the University of Missouri-Kansas City pursuing an accounting degree and plans to later attend law school.

In her free time, Sydney enjoys spending time with her nephews and volunteering at her local church.

 

CLIENT SERVICES MANAGER

Christy L. Phillips

client service manager at Paths Law

CLIENT SERVICES MANAGER

Christy L. Phillips

Phone: 816-640-8635
Email: [email protected]

Christy has 3 years of experience in Elder Law working for seniors and their families as a Benefits Coordinator processing Medicaid and VA applications. Prior to joining Paths Law Firm Christy worked in the finance industry for over 10 years.

 

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

René has worked along side Rusty for 35 years. Not only is she part of the Paths team, she is also his wife. René spends her time working with the accountant to keep all of the finances in order, as well as general office management.

In addition to helping run the office, she helps manage the family and grandkids, tries to keep everyone fed, and has a passion to teach Bible Studies. Her former career in Event Planning trained her to juggle all the activity. She understands Rusty’s passion to serve people from the first mention of law school. It is a great pleasure for her to be an important part of every area of his life.

 

MARKETING MANAGER

Hilary R. Tichota

Hillary at Paths Law

MARKETING MANAGER

Hilary

Hilary plays a vital role in the daily operations of the office. In addition to her regular office duties, Hilary has a heart of gold.

For more than 5 years, Hilary has operated the front desk at Paths, running the office and catering to clients. Hilary recently moved into the role of Community Relations Coordinator. She has a passion for people and a focus to share our business practices with the community’s seniors, businesses, and clients. She especially has a heart for seniors, showing they are loved through her visits, treats, the “Pen to Pal” program, and volunteering services at various senior living communities. She is a wonderful wife and mother of two. Most activities with seniors involve her great talent for any type of craft.

 

SR. PARALEGAL & OPERATIONS MANAGER

Jennifer A. Bronson

Jennifer, senior paralegal

SR. PARALEGAL & OPERATIONS MANAGER

Jennifer

Jennifer has been in the legal field for over 25 years and considers Paths her second home.

When she’s not running the office or working for our clients, she’s spending time with her first passion – her children.

ATTORNEY

Russell A. Fracassa (Rusty)

attorney at Paths Law elder law

ATTORNEY

Russell A. Fracassa (Rusty)

Phone: 816-640-8635

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 nearly 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 a practicing accountant. This provides invaluable experience in his current practice of law. Rusty decided to put his focus on helping the elderly, vulnerable adults, and their families navigate challenging life, end of life, and death events.

Rusty understands the challenges faced by individuals whose capacity is declining and how upsetting the loss of a loved one can be. He understands he may not be able to eliminate his client’s grief from loss, but he strives to provide clients with peace of mind. Rusty works directly with client’s long term care issues, including Medicaid, Veteran’s Benefits, Estate Planning, Asset Protection, and Special Needs Planning.

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.

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