Elder financial abuse is an insidious crime that is devastating in its effects: not only can a victim be robbed of their savings, but they might also suffer emotional and even physical complications because of another's wrongdoing. In California, we are experiencing an upsurge in elder financial abuse due to our growing population of senior citizens - a segment of our communities especially at risk for exploitation.
A recent case of confirmed elder financial abuse in Monterey just goes to show that the danger isn't going away, and it will only get worse unless we actively fight it. According to the Monterey County District Attorney's Office, Ilagene Quaglia, 62, was sentenced to 180 days of incarceration for committing theft (felony elder financial abuse) against an 82-year-old man from Pacific Grove. And it wasn't any ordinary theft, either - Quaglia was the senior citizen's "longtime caretaker." As such she enjoyed a position of trust and responsibility she violated by her actions.
Authorities say that Quaglia took advantage of her caretaker status over the course of three years to loot the victim's rental property management business. She would embezzle money from rental checks, overcharge on services and take the difference, and also write herself unauthorized checks from accounts. Quaglia's unlawful activity was only discovered thanks to the watchful eyes of a tenant, who noticed something was amiss when reviewing the elderly victim's financial records. The tenant then convinced the victim that he needed to call the police. It's still unknown just how much Quaglia stole in total.
While elder financial abuse is an unconscionable act, it's all too common a threat that senior citizens and their loved ones must confront head-on. In fact, the majority of abuse against the elderly is perpetrated by family members, showing just how close to home this crime hits. So what can be done to stop elder financial abuse? There are a number of measures that family, financial professionals, attorneys, and medical caregivers can coordinate for effective protection:
- Ensure oversight over bank and other financial accounts by a family member and financial professional. Check for irregularities or excessive withdrawals and help pay the bills. A joint account is also a possible option. In addition, check on a limited credit card.
- A revocable trust is a good idea for granting account access while not endowing the trustee with any ownership status.
- The best way to maintain a good relationship with an elderly loved one while safeguarding their finances is simply to visit often and talk with them. Communication is a great remedy to most problems, and an excellent means to combat the loneliness that leaves seniors vulnerable to scams and exploitation.
- Guard your elderly loved one from unwanted phone calls and mailers that prey on cognitively impaired senior citizens. You can contact the Direct Marketing Association, Nomorobo and the FTC's Do Not Call Registry to cut down on the number of solicitations.
Securing our seniors is a team effort that requires vigilant action throughout the community. Elder financial abuse isn't going away, but we can at least start by protecting those near and dear to us and making sure that predators are held accountable before the law.
If you suspect that a loved one is the victim of elder financial abuse, you can call us at Hackard Law. We protect the interests of clients and their families in trust, estate and probate litigation throughout California, including in Los Angeles, Sacramento and the Bay Area. Our number is 916-313-3030. We look forward to speaking with you.