Older Americans are becoming victims of financial abuse and fraud at an alarming rate. Very few have the advantage of having someone to watch out for them and advocate when necessary. I am proud to say LifeSTEPS was recently able to do just that for Ray*, an older adult living in a Southern California senior community. Ray was referred by his property manager to LifeSTEPS for financial assistance when they learned he didn’t have money for food and was having trouble paying his rent.
LifeSTEPS Director of Social Services, Erick, met with Ray and immediately noticed red flags. Ray received a sizable Social Security income that, based on his expenses, should have been adequately covering his living expenses. Upon reviewing Ray’s budget and bank statements with him, it became clear that there were several cases of fraud being perpetrated on his account, leaving him with a low and often negative balance. The fraudulent activity dated back several months and was happening repeatedly.
Even after Erick explained the situation, Ray was at a loss as to how to solve the problem. Older Americans like Ray are less likely to report fraud or financial abuse against them because they don’t know who to report it to, are too ashamed at having been scammed, or may not even know they have been scammed. Elderly victims may not report crimes, for example, because they are concerned that relatives may think the victims no longer have the mental capacity to take care of their own financial affairs. Further exacerbating the problem, Ray’s primary language is Spanish and he suffers from loss of hearing; this, in conjunction with his advanced age makes it hard to advocate for him.
LifeSTEPS was able to assist Ray in documenting the fraud, filing a police report, notifying the bank and ultimately securing a $900 reimbursement from the bank. Furthermore, Erick helped Ray identify the perpetrator of the fraud – a certain individual that “helps” him with day-to-day activities unfortunately had access to his bank information and was abusing his privileges. Through the Riverside Office on Aging, Ray has been connected to additional resources, including a more trustworthy support person to assist him with daily activities.
LifeSTEPS continues to monitor Ray’s well-being and has seen an overall change in his demeanor. He is more cheerful and feels relieved to know his finances are in order. He is also more confident knowing how to better protect his financial security and where to turn if he has questions.
*Not his real name