Michael Hackard, author of The Wolf at the Door: Undue Influence and Elder Financial Abuse, was recently interviewed by KUSI TV – San Diego on how to keep seniors safe from financial exploitation. A big thank you to KUSI and Carlos Amezcua!
As many as one in ten seniors are victims of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation. We’re going to talk about how to recognize the signs and what to do if you expect someone you love is being abused. That’s coming up on Good Morning San Diego.
Carlos Amezcua: Elder abuse affects an estimated ten percent of seniors. Mental and physical impairments make them especially vulnerable to financial abuse. Here to talk about the problem and how it can be prevented is Michael Hackard. He’s an attorney and the author of the new book The Wolf at the Door: Undue Influence and Elder Financial Abuse. Nice to have you here, Michael.
Michael Hackard: Thank you for having me.
Carlos Amezcua: So, let’s broadly describe what elder financial abuse would look like.
Michael Hackard: Okay, elder financial abuse involves people under the law, 65 years of age or older, who for one reason or another are vulnerable to undue influence. Undue influence is said to be excessive persuasion to cause one person to do something that they otherwise wouldn’t do.
Carlos Amezcua: So how would you – I mean, what are some of the ways that people get drawn into something that could cause them trouble? Is it continuous phone calls, is it personal meetings, is it mail, email, how do they do that?
Michael Hackard: Well, it’s all of those, and we know, there are those continuous phone calls, some that are just seeking, you know, pitching reverse mortgages, or maybe they just won the lottery and they have to put up their taxes in order to collect it. But there are a lot of other things that make seniors vulnerable. Particularly they are vulnerable to caretakers and many times to their own family.
Carlos Amezcua: People who are the closest to them, really?
Michael Hackard: People who are the closest to them. Because they know what buttons can be pushed. And of course the older you get, the more vulnerable you are, because you have oftentimes declining cognitive abilities and that can be taken advantage of.
Carlos Amezcua: So what’s a person to do?
Michael Hackard: Well, a great thing to do is for families to gather together, watch what their elders or parents or grandparents are doing, try to get some kind of transparency with regard to their financial affairs. That can be tough at times, but nevertheless it’s a good idea to do it. And to also have knowledge of what’s going on with their own estate plan.
Carlos Amezcua: Now, one would think that it doesn’t matter whether you’re rich or poor. This is going to affect everyone at all different levels of economic strata.
Michael Hackard: Absolutely. And there’s plenty of stories about rich people being taken advantage of just as well as poor people in one way or another. But the vast middle also gets taken advantage of.
Carlos Amezcua: So what should you do, I mean, other than getting the family together, should elderly people as they’re getting into their advanced age, let’s start at like age 65-70, should you be preparing something in case there’s impairment? Some sort of path?
Michael Hackard: Yeah, one of the things simply to prepare an irrevocable trust, just so that you identify in your own way how it is that you’d like your estate to go. And then share it with your children or those who are close to you. It is a good thing to reach out, because oftentimes people – I know a story of someone who was a brilliant professor of neurosurgery and wrote a lot of books, but had no idea that he had dementia and ultimately Alzheimer’s. Sometimes, you know, it’s not something necessarily you know about yourself.
Carlos Amezcua: So what is it you want, when I look at this book, The Wolf at the Door, it scares me enough to want to do something about it. Tell me what we should take away from your book.
Michael Hackard: I’d say take away that we truly are vulnerable as we get older, our family members are vulnerable, reach out, talk about it. If your family members seem to be reticent to do that, seek to add in other people, whether that be other people that are close to them so that you can talk to them about their own vulnerability and truly some of the terrible things that happen. And, you know, to the extent that – as an example, only one out of forty-four cases are ever reported. So that means there’s forty-three of them out there that are not doing too well.
Carlos Amezcua: That is not good, and you have generously agreed to donate the proceeds of the book to charity.
Michael Hackard: It pleases me; I’m happy to do that. Any proceeds from the book go to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America that is doing good work, great work, in sensitizing people to the problems that are coming.
Carlos Amezcua: Alright, the book is called The Wolf at the Door, Michael Hackard, thanks so much for being here.
Michael Hackard: Thanks so much.
Carlos Amezcua: Appreciate the information.
Michael Hackard: Thank you.