Rise in financial elder abuse cases since COVID-19 pandemic began

Investigations

WKRN

TENNESSEE (WATE) – The COVID-19 pandemic has created many challenges, especially for those who’ve been laid off or furloughed, and as a result of economic uncertainty, there’s been an increase in financial elder abuse.

WATE 6 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Don Dare spoke with experts Monday who monitor abuse cases in East Tennessee.

There’s been an increase in calls to agencies that assist older adults who may have been abused; elder abuse is one of the most under-reported crimes, according to crisis professionals.

This is mainly because the abuser is often someone the older person knows and they don’t want to report it. The pandemic has worsened the severity of existing abusive situations, and financial exploitation is high on the list.

“It’s rampant, it’s an epidemic. It’s another pandemic.”

Aaron Bradley – Area Agency on Aging

Aaron Bradley is the director of the Area Agency on Aging, and he says when thousands were laid off because of the coronavirus, after businesses were shut down, abusers turned to older relatives who had a steady income, either social security or savings.

“Any time there is a downturn in the economy we see an increase of abuse in elders. Family members will go to their home because they have a home. They will take advantage of their funding because they have steady income and they also have savings.”

Aaron Bradley

An estimated one in 10 older adults over 60 experience abuse annually across the country. Elder abuse includes physical, emotional, and financial exploitation.

One financial case was foiled just recently.

“$1.2M was attempted to be stolen from an older lady that lived in our district. It was through a fraudulent power of attorney. This particular criminal was four banks into the fraud before that fourth bank called law enforcement and stopped it.”

Aaron Bradley

“So we are seeing a lot more financial exploitation, people forging checks. Maybe a caregiver maybe a family member.”

Tracy Armstrong CREVAA Regional Director

Tracy Armstrong is the regional manager for CREVAA. She says the pandemic has made it harder on seniors who may have unemployed caregivers in the home.

“The caregivers are already stressed out about COVID. They are stressed more because they are not getting the support they had. Then on top of that, financially, they may be strapped. And financial hardships are known to be a catalyst for any kind of abuse.”

Tracy Armstrong

In East Tennessee, there are services to assist older people who may be facing abusive situations.

While some senior citizens centers are closed due to the coronavirus, you can find assistance by calling your local office on aging in the county where you live.

Someone there can direct you to the proper agency.

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