Stop Financial Exploitation

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One of the biggest growing problems our state and country faces is financial exploitation. As a banker, this subject comes up unfortunately more than I would like. I’m hoping this article will help provide some tips and resources so we can all come together to stop it. 

Financial exploitation has been called “the crime of the 21st century” and occurs when there is an illegal use of a vulnerable adult’s resources for another person’s gain. The vulnerable adult is at least 60 years old or disabled and between 18 and 59. He or she is tricked or coerced into handing over money to a son, daughter, relative or stranger.

Financial exploitation is the third most frequent type of abuse, neglect and/or exploitation of vulnerable adults. Chances are good that if an elderly or disabled person is being exploited financially, he or she is being victimized in other ways, too. Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services serves as the Adult Protective Services agency for the elderly and disabled and is mandated to investigate reports of abuse, neglect, or exploitation. 

Adult children victimize their parents in 60.4 percent of substantiated financial exploitation cases investigated by state adult protective services agencies. The primary reasons include the easy access adult children have to their mother or father or other elderly relatives, as well as the love parents have for their children – a love which can function to lower the potential victims’ suspicions and defenses. Grandchildren and other relatives also victimize their elderly loved ones in 19 percent of financial exploitation cases, followed by friends and neighbors at 8.7 percent Those who commit the crime tend to be young or middle-aged: almost one-half are less than age 40, while almost 40 percent are between ages 41 and 59. Interestingly, an adult child will victimize a parent even if the parent is of humble means. Why? Access to the victim matters even more than the victim’s wealth. And it’s the victim’s vulnerability as well as close proximity to the exploiter, that makes him or her an easy target.

Experts believe that for every case of adult abuse or neglect reported, as many as 23 cases go unreported. If you suspect an elderly or disabled person is being exploited financially, call the Department of Heath and Senior Services hotline (1-800-392-0210 ) or visit health mo.gov/safety/abuse. Provide as much identifying information as possible when making the call, such as: names, addresses, and daytime phone numbers of the alleged victim and perpetrator, any witnesses, information regarding the victim’s age or disability, and your daytime phone number. A thorough explanation of what happened, include the nature and date(s) of the incident, if law enforcement is involved, and any other information that may help the investigation.

A scam may be reported to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline (1-800-392-8222) or at ago.mo.gov/app/consumercomplaint. The purpose of the hotline is to investigate alleged violations of the State consumer fraud law, and pursue legal proceedings to protect Missourians from illegal advertising and sales practices. 

Erin Harvey is the vice-president at Lamar Bank & Trust Company in Lamar, Mo. She can be reached at [email protected].

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