Recently, we wrote about some of the reasons elder abuse occurs. Of course, when it comes to financial elder abuse, the motives are a bit more obvious. Money motives are easy to understand, and the elderly can, in some cases, make easy targets. Still, it is hard to imagine making the decision to steal from anyone, let alone a senior who may be on a fixed income. Two recent news stories demonstrate the very real nature of these threats, along with the fact that the schemes are happening in our Northwest Florida communities. We are committed to helping the victims of all forms of elder abuse, including serving as a law firm for financial abuse victims in Panama City and beyond.
As reported in the Northwest Florida Daily News, a mother and son from DeFuniak Springs have been arrested on charges of racking up bills on a credit card belonging to a 93-year-old man. The Walton County Sheriff's Office alleges that Betty Linda Redmond charged more than $3,200 to the victim's card from January to March, while her son Brian Andrew Redmond, age 28, charged an additional $775. The pair were charged with exploiting the elderly in an amount under $20,000. Both were jailed on $5,000 bond each.
Bay County officials are also investigating a case of financial abuse of a senior citizen. As detailed in the News Herald, the Sheriff's Office ("BCSO") is warning residents about the phone scam that defrauded a 75-year-old woman of $23,000. According to the BCSO, the victim received a call from a man claiming her grandson had been involved in a car crash in Mexico and arrested after authorities found drugs in his vehicle. The caller asked the woman to wire funds to an unknown recipient located in Mexico City, Mexico. Local officials later found the woman's grandson working in Panama City Beach and confirmed that he had never left the country.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is working with the BCSO on the investigation. BCSO officials note that a similar scam has been perpetrated using email. In that version, the victim received an email saying a friend was robbed abroad and needs money in order to return home.
One of the most cited resources on financial elder abuse is a 2009 study produced by Met Life. In June 2011, Met Life released a follow-up report titled: "The MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse: Crimes of Occasion, Desperation, and Predation Against America's Elders." The study found that financial abuse of the elderly resulted in losses of at least $2.9 billion in 2010, a 12% increase from the estimate for 2008.
The review looked at news articles on financial elder abuse and fraud by strangers compromised 51% of the articles, while fraud by family, friends, and neighbors accounted for 34% of the reports. However, the authors surmise that the latter may be more likely to go unreported due to shame, embarrassment, or fear of retaliation. Overall, 31% of articles on elder abuse involved elder financial abuse.
Thankfully, in the years since the first MetLife study there has been a greater amount of attention paid to the problem of elder abuse. There have also been legislative efforts at both the state and federal levels. We applaud these efforts. We also know there's much more to be done.
While increased/improved reporting may account for some of the change, the fact remains that elder abuse is a growing threat. Our team helps the victims of elder abuse, including financial schemes, recover monetary damages in civil court. Call to schedule a consultation with our Panama City elder abuse lawyer if you believe that you have been the victim of financial elder abuse or if you believe a loved one has been victimized.