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Financial exploitation takes many forms, finds many victims

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

If someone makes illegal or improper use of another person's money or property for their own profit or gain, they are committing financial exploitation. Anyone can be a victim of this crime, but more and more elderly and disabled persons are becoming victims.

The July 19 issue of the Courier had an article outlining several common scams including the false check scam and the false sweepstakes winner scam.
While strangers can be the abusers, it is a sad fact that the elderly and disabled are often taken advantage of by people close to them: family members, caregivers, and professionals hired by the victim, such as accountants and lawyers.
Some of the ways a person can be taken advantage of financially include cashing checks without authorization, forging a person's signature, misusing or stealing money or possessions, coercing or deceiving a person into signing documents such as a contract or a will, and the improper use of conservatorship, guardianship or power of attorney.

According to Adult Protective Services, some of the signs and symptoms of financial exploitation include:

• Sudden changes in a bank account or banking practice
• Unexplained withdrawal of a lot of money by a person accompanying a victim
• Adding additional names on a bank signature card
• Unapproved withdrawal of funds using an ATM card
• Sudden changes in a will or other financial documents
• Unexplained missing funds or valuables
• Providing substandard care
• Unpaid bills despite having enough money
• Forged signature for financial transactions or for the titles of property
• Sudden appearance of previously uninvolved relatives claiming their rights to a person's affairs and possessions
• Unexplained sudden transfer of assets
• Providing unnecessary services
• A complaint of financial exploitation.
People can take some measures to protect themselves from becoming a victim.

Never sign a blank check allowing another person to fill in the amount.
Don't leave money or valuables in plain view.

Be aware of scams. If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.
Don't give strangers access to your bank account.

Check your financial statements regularly and carefully.

Never sign a legal document you have not read completely or do not fully understand.

Don't give in to pressure from family members or anyone else to do anything you don't want to do.

Anyone who suspects an elderly or disabled person is being exploited, call the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services at 1-800-252-5400.