January 21, 2020 Feature

Financial Exploitation by Agents under Powers of Attorney: It Is a Crime!

Rebecca C. Morgan and Randolph Thomas

Many would consider $34,200 a nice tidy sum of money. Even a significant amount of money. It’s also the average amount of money lost to financial exploitation by older adults, according to a recent report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. (Consumer Fin. Prot. Bureau, Suspicious Activity Reports on Elder Financial Exploitation: Issues and Trends 15 (2019), [hereinafter SAR].) To compound this, the amount of loss goes up by the victim’s age according to the SAR, with those age 70–79 losing an average of $45,300 and those age 80 and older losing an average of $39,200. The SAR shows that the losses sustained by these two oldest age groups is almost $20,000 higher than that for those between ages 50–59 and 60–69. (SAR, supra, at 16.) The report notes that the likelihood of financial exploitation is greater when the victim knows the perpetrator, and in the case of fiduciaries like agents under powers of attorney, not only was there a greater likelihood of a loss, but the amount lost also was more. In the SAR, nearly 7 percent of the perpetrators fell into the fiduciary category. (SAR, supra, at 18.) So even though $34,200 is a tidy sum of money, the loss, in cases where the perpetrator is the fiduciary, is much greater, averaging $83,600. (SAR, supra, at 18.)

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