Financial Exploitation Case Studies
NOTE: The names of all participants have been changed to protect their privacy
My name is Jean. I am 65-years-old and I am a victim of financial exploitation. For the past couple of years I have struggled emotionally because of personal problems. I felt overwhelmed and could not handle my financial affairs. My brother, Bob, offered to help and I gratefully accepted. I gave him complete access to my money. But instead of managing my finances, he stole my life’s savings, more than $304,000. I trusted my brother to look out for my interests, but he instead took advantage of that trust and took all my funds and left me financially destitute.
I didn’t realize what was happening and it was not until I began working with APS that I found out what my brother had done. They discovered that he pillaged my retirement accounts, opened installment loans and credit card accounts in my name without my permission or knowledge, used my credit card without my permission, and failed to pay my bills and income taxes.
Unfortunately I went to APS too late to save my house from foreclosure, but they were able to help me save my car, cancel the credit cards he took out in my name, and remove him from my savings and checking accounts.
With APS’s help I am trying to get my financial affairs together again. They are helping:
- Resolve my credit problems,
- Negotiate with the IRS regarding my back taxes, and
- Get restitution from my brother for the money he stole from me.
Thanks to APS, I have a future.
Mr. Sonora was a 90-year-old widower with dementia who, despite his memory and cognitive problems, was able to manage living on his own. His wife died a few years earlier and he had no family living in the region, but his out-of-state relatives telephoned him regularly to make sure he was doing okay. The relatives became concerned about his well-being after a married couple approached Samuel and offered to help him around the house and perform minor home repairs. Initially Mr. Sonora welcomed their assistance and the relatives were happy he was getting help but soon the couple had taken over supervising his care, controlling his money, and restricting his access to his family.
After several unsuccessful attempts to reach Samuel, the relatives called the couple to find out where he was. The couple did not know Samuel’s whereabouts. The relatives called APS. The couple then reported him missing to the police. Two days later, Mr. Sonora was located wandering at a bus terminal in a Midwestern city, some 1,000 miles from his home. He had no idea how he had arrived there and authorities took him to the hospital for observation.
The couple flew to the Midwestern city and brought him back to their home. When APS learned of Mr. Sonora’s return, an APS worker visited Mr. Sonora to verify his well-being and find out where he wanted to live. Mr. Sonora said he did not want to stay with the couple, so APS arranged for him to be transported to the assisted living facility of his choice to ensure he was safe and received proper care.
The APS investigation revealed that the couple had written checks for tens of thousands of dollars from Mr. Sonora’s bank account for “maintenance work” but there was no evidence of any work being performed at his residence. The couple also couldn’t explain how Mr. Sonora, under their supervision, could have gotten himself to a bus depot, purchased a long-distance ticket, and boarded the bus ending up 1,000 miles away.
APS referred the evidence to law enforcement to pursue the couple for elder financial abuse. APS contacted Mr. Sonora’s extended family, and with his blessing, they arranged to take over his care and estate. He gladly agreed to sell his property and be relocated near his family.
APS assisted by:
- Verifying Mr. Sonora’s whereabouts and safety
- Coordinating adequate care for Mr. Sonora’s needs
- Reporting concerns about potential financial abuse to law enforcement
- Assisting Mr. Sonora in reconnecting with his family
APS received a report of suspected elder financial abuse when a 78-year-old male was seen repeatedly wiring large sums of money to international accounts offshore. The APS worker met with Mr. Folsom who described $8 million in lottery winnings he was trying to collect by sending “legal processing fees” to a Nigerian government official. Mr. Folsom lived independently by himself and still drove to the grocery store and appointments. He admitted that he was a bit frustrated because he initially was told it would only cost $5,000 to “release the funds” to him, but there seemed to be an unending series of delays and bureaucratic snafu’s which had resulted in him sending wire transfers of more than $80,000 in the last year.
Mr. Folsom became quite emotional as he described how he had even taken out unsecured loans for $25,000 from the bank so he could send the money required by the Nigerian government official. Mr. Folsom displayed no insight that this was a type of fraud known as a lottery scam. In fact, when the APS worker asked how the situation had unfolded, it became clear that Mr. Folsom could not comprehend the scam or its consequences. Further, even when he began to have suspicions about the veracity of the lottery “winnings”, he simply couldn’t stop or protect himself from the scam.
Mr. Folsom began having trouble paying his bills because of the additional monthly payments he now owed the bank for the unsecured loans. Mr. Folsom refused repeated attempts to have assistance from law enforcement, from legal aid, from a fiduciary to manage his finances.
The APS worker established a relationship with Mr. Folsom and learned he had named a power of attorney for finances in his estate plan. APS consulted with Mr. Folsom and his power of attorney about assuming the role of fiduciary. Mr. Folsom initially disagreed, but as he began receiving calls from collection agencies and realized he could lose his house, he agreed with the APS worker to transition oversight of his finances to his power of attorney.
Mr. Folsom never received his lottery winnings but remained living independently in his home until he died a year later.
APS assisted by:
- Verifying Mr. Folsom was being financially abused by a lottery scam
- Honoring Mr. Folsom’s request to refuse involving legal aid or law enforcement
- Enlisting Mr. Folsom’s financial power of attorney to protect his assets from further abuse
- Keeping Mr. Folsom safely in his residence for the remainder of his life
Harriet is 85-years-old and her husband, Henry, is 83-years-old. They live independently although it is getting increasingly difficult for Henry to climb the flight of stairs to their apartment. Their income is modest, both receive social security benefits. Harriet manages the finances for the household.
Because of Henry’s incapacitation, Harriet grew worried about what the couple would do when he could no longer make it up the stairs. She looked into senior assisted living apartments but couldn’t afford them. Then one day she received a notice in the mail that she had won a large cash prize. She was thrilled. This was the nest egg she and her husband needed to pay for assisted living. Harriet gladly paid the $3000 necessary to claim her winnings, but when she did she was told there was a problem and more money was needed. Again, she paid the requested amount.
Harriet was caught in a lottery scam. The scammers played on her vulnerability and were out to milk her for all she was worth. Fortunately her bank noticed the unusual withdrawals she was making and notified APS.
APS assisted by:
- Helping Harriet understand the scam she fell prey to and how scammers manipulate their marks
- Preparing her for the continued attempts from the scammers to get her money and support her in resisting them
- Working with the bank to protect her remaining assets
- Notifying law enforcement in the U.S. and Canada of the scam
- Arranging for money management services
Sadly, Harriet did not get her money back, but she did not lose any more money.
APS received a call from Cecilia Green’s daughter, Deborah, because her mother’s utilities had been cut off. Cecilia was 68-years-old at the time and lived in her own home with Janice, one of her two adult daughters. Cecelia had multiple sclerosis and used a wheelchair to get about. Because her home had a flight of stairs and she had no wheelchair ramp, Cecilia was homebound. Janice was her sole caregiver and did all the shopping and errands, including paying the bills and handling all the banking.
When APS looked into the situation they discovered that Janice had a gambling problem of which Cecilia was unaware, and Janice had depleted all of her mother’s funds to repay her gambling debts. Cecilia did not want any legal action taken against her daughter. She wanted Janice to continue to live with her and be her caregiver.
APS assisted by:
- Facilitating to have Cecilia’s other daughter, Deborah, manage her mother’s finances
- Arranging to remove Janice’s access to her mother’s money
- Contacting utility companies to arrange to reconnect services and negotiating a payment schedule to repay amounts past due
Virginia Lee is a 63-year-old woman with a disability that severely limits her mobility. She had allowed a much younger male acquaintance, Dave, to move in with her because he could not afford his own place. Virginia didn’t know that Dave had a drug and alcohol addiction when she allowed him to move in, but she soon found out when he stole her credit cards and personal belongings to support his drug and alcohol addiction. She asked him to leave and he refused.
Virginia called the police to file a report on her stolen credit cards, called her financial institutions to notify them of the fraudulent use of her money/credit, and called a lawyer about evicting Dave. She was stunned to find out that Dave had legally established residency in her home because Virginia had allowed him to stay for the prior three months. When APS met with Virginia she was despairing about her situation. She was in constant fear that Dave would attack her in a drug and alcohol-fueled fit of rage.
APS assisted by:
- Exploring with Virginia ways to get Dave out of her home
- When Virginia decided to evict him, educating her on the process
- Providing her with the required forms, assisting her in completing them, and helping her have the papers served on him
Fortunately, Virginia did not have to go through the long and costly process of eviction. When Dave realized she wasn’t backing down, he vacated her home.
Mr. Clauson and his wife, Joy, had been married for 52 years when she died. They had one son, Ken, with whom Mr. Clauson was close, but Ken was often away. Without Joy, Bill’s life seemed empty and he had trouble finding the energy to take care of himself. A neighbor, Susan Young, who was 40 years his junior, befriended him. She cooked meals and ran errands for him and took him to the movies, restaurants, and on other outings. Soon she was the central person in Bill’s life.
At first Ken was happy that his father had company and was getting out of the house. However, after awhile he realized that his father was giving Susan expensive gifts and large sums of money. When Ken asked his father about these gifts, Bill was unaware of them. Ken became alarmed that Susan was manipulating his father to get money and was so skilled at it that Bill wasn’t even aware it was happening. Ken started calling various agencies to report what was happening. He called the police, district attorney’s office and aging services agencies, but none was able to help. It wasn’t until he called APS that he got the help he was looking for.
APS assisted by:
- Validating Ken’s fears
- Investigating and confirming his belief that his father was being exploited
- Providing sufficient evidence to convince the district attorney’s office to prosecute Susan Young
APS received a report that an 84-year-old female, Terri Taylor, was being financially abused by a relative who had assumed control of Ms. Taylor’s estate while she was hospitalized for a stroke. Ms. Taylor had lived independently until this medical episode. After a couple of months of recuperation, Ms. Taylor’s relative decided to terminate the lease on her apartment, dispose of her personal belongings and arrange for Ms. Taylor to be placed in an assisted living facility – all against Ms. Taylor’s wishes.
APS assisted by:
- Getting evaluations of Ms. Taylor by her own medical doctors to verify she could independently attend to her own affairs
- Referring Ms. Taylor to legal assistance services which helped advocate on her behalf to have her financial assets returned
Ms. Taylor eventually regained control of her assets and returned to living independently according to her own wishes.
Ted Kaiser is a 79-year-old man who was brought to a local hospital after attempting suicide. Ted was intimidated by two cousins who moved in with him and forced him to sign over the deed to his house. His cousins then sold the house for $8,500 and spent the money on drugs. APS was called.
APS assisted by:
- Involving the police in the investigation
- Gathering evidence to prove that at the time of the transfer of his home, Mr. Kaiser was not mentally capable of consenting to it
Police issued warrants on two of Mr. Kaiser’s cousins.
Linda Louie is a 78-year-old female who suffers from dementia. She is very confused and does not understand what is going on around her. She lives with her granddaughter, Shirley. Shirley and her brother, Gene, take turns financially exploiting their grandmother. Gene withdrew $216,000 from his grandmother’s account and Shirley withdrew $124,000 to buy a vacation home. Shirley filed a complaint against her brother because she has power of attorney for her grandmother and she did not approve the withdrawal.
APS assisted by:
- Working to remove Shirley as the power of attorney
- Securing a court supervisor guardianship for Ms. Louie
- Involving the police who are investigating for possible criminal charges