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What Is Elder Fraud?


While no one wants to contemplate the phenomenon much, it is sadly true that people over the age of 65 are at high risk of abuse and exploitation. One particularly insidious form of elder abuse is referred to as elder fraud or elder financial exploitation, where a person either uses deception, force, or the threat of force to part an elderly person from their personal property. Alabama has laws combating this highly unethical practice, but sometimes, a person may be victimized regardless.

If you or a loved one has found yourself in this kind of situation, know that you do not deserve to be victimized like this, and that help is out there. The Birmingham elder fraud attorneys from Goldasich, Vick & Fulk are ready and willing to help protect your rights if you decide to seek compensation for yourself or a family member. State law is clear – abuse of the most vulnerable people in our society can lead to serious consequences.

Initially Laws Did Not Recognize Financial Abuse

Over time, Alabama’s legislature has passed two major initiatives aimed at protecting this segment of society, intended to preserve autonomy while ensuring elders’ rights are protected. The first, the Adult Protective Services Act, was passed in 1976, designed to give adults with no protectors a method of recourse against abuse of all kinds. Under this law, the state’s Department of Human Resources (DHR) is required to investigate any report of “exploitation, neglect, abuse,” or other inappropriate treatment it receives.

However, this law did not single out financial abuse as a possible ground for the DHR to investigate, which meant that in practice, many cases went unnoticed or ignored simply because no physical abuse component existed. In reality, financial abuse is widespread and underreported. Statistics from the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) report that financial abuse occurs in 99 percent of domestic violence cases, but as many as 82 percent of people did not recognize it as an actionable form of abuse for which they could face legal consequences.

More Safeguards In Place

In 2013, Alabama’s legislature took the step to codify recognizing financial exploitation and abuse as a legal problem in passing the Protecting Alabama’s Elders Act (PAEA). The Act specifically defined financial abuse of an elderly person, and created criminal penalties for anyone found guilty of financial exploitation. The most serious offense under this act can lead to 20 years in prison for anyone convicted.

Since then, even more protections have been put into practice, with the most recent passing in 2022. The Elderly & Vulnerable Adult Financial Protection Act allows banks to “refuse or delay” financial transactions involving a person over 65, if they suspect that financial exploitation is occurring or has occurred. These laws are used to prosecute these offenses aggressively – exploiting elderly people is seen as particularly without morals, given how many elders may not be able to understand when a person attempts to take advantage of their position.

Let Our Attorneys Help You

Finding out that you or an elderly loved one have been taken advantage of or defrauded can lead to a lot of shame, but it is important to know that you have options regardless. You have legal methods by which you can hopefully recover what you have lost – both financial and otherwise. A Birmingham elder abuse attorney from Goldasich, Vick & Fulk can help – we are ready and willing to try. Contact our office today at (205) 731-2566 to schedule a consultation.

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