A variety of things you observe or detect may signal that a resident or family member is a victim of financial exploitation. Here is a list of many of the “red flags” that you might spot.

1.         Things a resident tells you or that you observe concerning the resident:

  • Resident, regardless of cognitive impairment, complains or reports that someone is misusing or stealing his/her money or property
  • Resident reports missing checkbook, credit card, or important papers
  • Resident is agitated or distraught prior to or after a family member or friend visits
  • Resident is agitated or distraught prior to or after a family member or friend takes him/her out for a visit or appointment
  • Resident becomes secretive and suddenly starts hiding possessions or hoarding papers

2.         Things you observe in or about a resident’s room or apartment

  • Disappearance of possessions
  • Replacement of possessions in resident’s room with those of lesser value
  • Resident lacks basics (e.g. underwear) but personal needs account is depleted
  • Blank deposit slips or withdrawal forms in conspicuous places for easy taking
  • Missing or unaccounted for medications

3.         Family dynamics and other observations when the resident is with visitors

  • Observing/hearing a resident pressured to make a decision or sign a document “now”
  • Observing/hearing a resident being threatened by family or other visitor that unless the resident agrees to or signs a document, the visitor will stop taking care of the resident
  • “Chaperoning” – suspected person lets others visit only when he/she is present and insists on speaking for the resident
  • New acquaintance showing intense affection for resident, isolating her/him from others
  • Previously uninvolved persons claim authority to manage resident’s care and/or finances but do not provide documentation
  • Agent or family member declines or pressures resident to decline prescribed treatment(s) on the basis of cost, overriding the resident’s wishes
  • Family members or fiduciaries avoiding care plan meetings or failing to return calls from facility staff
  • Known gambling, drug or alcohol problem of resident, family member or visitor
  • Conflicts concerning finances between resident’s adult children or others with close relationships to the resident

4.         Billing issues

  • Unpaid facility bills
  • Unpaid pharmacy bills
  • Stalling or broken promises from person handling resident’s money
  • Abrupt or repeated changes in responsibility for paying resident’s bills
  • Bills paid in cash
  • Communication from a family member, friend, fiduciary or partner that he or she plans to move the resident after questions arise about suspected financial exploitation

5.         Power of Attorney Matters

  • Agent under power of attorney failing to provide necessary documentation
  • Multiple agents under powers of attorney in conflict over responsibility to pay the facility bill
  • Resident who appears to lack decision-making capacity signs new power of attorney document Checks or other documents signed/dated when resident is no longer able to write

6.         Checks and Imbalances

  • Suspicious signatures (e.g. many versions of a resident’s signature or one that was shaky is suddenly firm or vice versa)
  • Checks or other documents signed/dated when resident is no longer able to write
  • Resident’s checkbook or check register shows checks made out to “cash” frequently and/or check numbers out of sequence
    • Telephone card or telephone bill fees for calls not made by the resident or otherwise unauthorized by the resident (called “cramming”)
    • Credit card charges for items not purchased by the resident
    • Erratic use of personal needs allowance by family member or fiduciary
    • Gifts (either frequent or costly) to staff or volunteers
    • Sales of valuables to facility staff or volunteers.

Source: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

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