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Financial Exploitation on the Rise During the COVID-19 Pandemic

There is a lot we do not yet know about the novel coronavirus COVID-19 that continues to distress financial markets and upset almost all aspects of our personal and professional lives. One issue that seems consistent across the globe, however, is the fact that elderly populations are vulnerable to contracting the virus and experiencing the worst effects. To protect elder residents in their respective states, governments have enacted emergency measures for social distancing and limiting personal interactions. Here in Michigan, the Governor’s Executive Order on the matter became effective on March 24, 2020.

These extraordinary measures are considered necessary by officials seeking to safeguard the health of susceptible individuals, but another side effect poses a threat to the elderly population: financial abuse and exploitation. Contact an experienced Michigan elder law attorney right away if you have concerns.

Why the Elderly are at Risk in a Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic notwithstanding, financial exploitation and abuse are more of a threat to seniors for three reasons:

  • Elderly individuals may have medical conditions inhibiting wise financial decision-making, such as dementia and cognitive decline;
  • The elderly often rely on caregivers to handle financial transactions due to physical limitations; and
  • Many times, there is no obvious illegal activity to evidence financial exploitation. For instance, a fraudster may actually be a signatory on an account.

These factors are exacerbated when individuals are isolated and separated from trusted loved ones. At the same time, the COVID-19 crisis is viewed as a “field day” for fraudsters seeking financial gain. Opportunists are hard at work on their latest schemes and exploitation efforts.

Types and Signs of Financial Exploitation of the Elderly

Though you may have limited access to a loved one while complying with the stay-at-home guidelines, you should be extra vigilant and diligent in pursuing signs of financial abuse. Keep an eye out for such “red flags” as:

  • Not having enough money to pay bills;
  • Missing, stolen, or “borrowed” property;
  • Lack of food, hygiene products, and other household essentials at your loved one’s residence;
  • Unusual use of credit cards to make suspicious purchases;
  • Gross mismanagement of assets and/or accounts;
  • Questions about or involvement in an unusual investment scheme, especially if the primary interactions are online;
  • Changes to beneficiaries on life insurance policies and bank accounts;
  • Adding individuals to real estate deeds;
  • People living with your elderly loved one, purportedly as a roommate or caretaker; and,
  • Any other issues that you deem suspicious or questionable.

Speak to a Member of Our Team at the Nawrocki Center for Elder Law

At the Nawrocki Center for Elder Law, we are committed to protecting the interests of seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic, physically and financially. If you believe someone is taking advantage of the crisis to gain a financial advantage over an elderly individual, time is of the essence to get in touch with our office. Please call 810-893-5277 or visit our website right away to set up a consultation. With COVID-19 protocols in place, we are still able to provide excellent and efficient services by telephone or video conference.


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