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Reporting Financial Elder Abuse
The California Department of Justice estimates that every year 1 in 20 elders will become the victim of abuse. Unfortunately, it is estimated that only 1 in 14 acts of elder abuse are reported, and as the elder population of California grows so does the opportunity for abuse. Reporting suspected abuse is critical and can save another's assets, health, dignity, retirement savings, and even their life.Mandated Reporting
The same reporting requirements for physical elder abuse apply to financial elder abuse. Anybody who is concerned that financial elder abuse is taking place should err on the side of caution and report their suspicions. Under California law, certain individuals, known as mandated reporters, are required to report any actual, suspected, or disclosed abuse of an elder or dependent adult as soon as possible. These typically include:
- All employees in a long-term health care facility;
- Physicians and all licensed health care providers;
- Marriage and family therapists;
- Employees of a law enforcement or protective service agency; and
- Any person who assumes responsibility for care or custody of an elder no matter if they receive compensation.
To ensure more complete protections for elders, officers, and employees of financial institutions have been added to the list of mandated reporters in California.Penalties for Failing to Report
California has provided immunity from civil and criminal liability for anyone reporting any type of elder abuse. Because this safeguard is in place, any mandated reporter who knows or suspects elder abuse, but fails to report it may be convicted of a crime. Failing to report elder abuse is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. A mandated reporter’s intentional failure to report—or actions impeding or inhibiting a report of—elder abuse may receive up to a 1-year jail sentence and/or a $5,000 fine.
Additionally, failure to report financial elder abuse can result in criminal charges for a financial institution. An unintentional failure to report financial elder abuse suspicions can cost the institution up to $1,000, while an intentional failure to report can result in a fine of up to $5,000.Procedures for Reporting Financial Elder Abuse
The major difference between reporting financial elder abuse and physical elder abuse is where and to whom the reports are made. It is always appropriate to call 9-1-1 in an emergency situation or, in non-life threatening circumstances, to contact local law enforcement on their non-emergency line and/or Adult Protective Services (APS) in your area and report elder abuse. APS investigates all types of abuse, no matter the circumstances. Notification to other agencies may depend on the type of abuse and whether the elder abuse was related or unrelated to a long-term care facility where they reside.
For financial abuse related to Medicare or Medi-Cal benefits or fraud, make your report to the Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud & Elder Abuse as they specialize in this issue. If you suspect financial elder abuse at the hands of a caregiver in connection with their care at a long-term care facility, you may also contact your county’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman or call their crisis line. The local District and City Attorney’s offices are equipped to handle investigations and prosecutions of financial abuse resulting from consumer fraud and telemarketing scams.Fraud by Licensed Professionals
Many licensed professionals have ethical obligations to their clients that they must obey in order to maintain their licensure. If you know or suspect that a licensed professional has engaged in financial elder abuse, you may contact their professional association in addition to you reporting the abuse to a state or local agency. In addition to criminal and civil penalties, these individuals may face reprimand, discipline, even license suspension or revocation from their professional association for violating ethical rules. For example:
- Insurance agents may be reported to the State Insurance Commissioner’s office.
- Complaints of impropriety against an attorney may be filed with the State Bar of California.
- Problems with real estate brokers or mortgage lenders may be addressed with the California Department of Real Estate.
- If you suspect a physician of unethical behavior, the Medical Board of California can investigate your complaint.
- The Board of Registered Nursing investigates complaints of unprofessional nurse conduct in California.
- Physicians assistants may be reported to the Physician Assistant Board of the State of California.
If you or a an elder loved one are suffering financial abuse, do not wait to take action. Contact an agency responsible for investigating elder abuse. If they are in danger, speak to 911 or law enforcement to remove the victim from the abusive environment. If the abuser is a licensed professional, contact their professional licensing board to prevent them from continuing abusive behavior under the guise doing their job. Finally, do not hesitate to contact an experienced elder abuse attorney to understand your rights or the rights of your loved one and learn what you can do to prevent further harm and recover damages you have already incurred.
For a free and confidential consultation with an experienced financial elder abuse attorney, please call us directly at (866) 338-7079, or click here to submit your inquiry online.