Financial Abuse and the COVID-19 Scam 

Posted on Sunday, February 14th, 2021 at 2:46 pm    

Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, elderly residents living in nursing homes or long-term care facilities have been living in fear. They fear for their lives as they watch the pandemic sweeping across the nation and through the halls of their care facility. The end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021 have brought those residents new hope in the form of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Many states, including Kentucky, have prioritized getting the vaccine distributed to long-term care facilities, assisted living facilities, and healthcare personnel, in addition to anyone over the age of 70 and first responders. Yet, a vaccine isn’t the end of the problem. It is the beginning of a new problem that is highlighting a form of abuse that is common but rarely discussed – financial abuse.

With the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out still in its infancy, people have found ways to take advantage of the fear and desperation that the elderly feel as they wait for their turn to get the vaccine. The Senior Medicare PatrolU.S. Office of the Inspector General, and Federal Bureau of Investigation have all released alerts to the public warning them, especially the elderly, to be aware of frauds and scams that offer the COVID-19 vaccine in exchange for money.

During this public health emergency, people will not be asked to pay for the vaccine out of pocket, nor will they be asked to put down money in exchange for being put on a vaccine list. These agencies are also warning the elderly and nursing home residents to refuse to hand over their Medicare information or personal information to unsolicited calls, emails, texts, and home visits.

How prevalent is this scam? States from Hawaii to Wisconsin to Georgia are already reporting on defrauders cashing in on the scam, targeting, in particular, the elderly and those with Medicare.

This scam is just a new iteration of what has been plaguing the elderly and nursing home residents for years, financial abuse. Financial abuse can take several different forms, including scams, theft, and forgery. Financial abuse may cost elderly Americans anywhere from $3 billion to $37 billion a year. Why the huge range? It’s because a large number of financial abuse cases go unreported.

Strangers aren’t the only ones abusing the elderly. Many cases go unreported because friends or caregivers, the people closest to nursing home residents, are the perpetrators. Caregivers have access to a residents’ room, personal belongings, and perhaps even their checkbook or bank statements.

It can be easy for a caregiver to take something of value from a resident’s room, forge checks from a resident’s checkbook, or even make them believe that they need to pay for a vaccine or medical treatment out of their own pocket by making them pay cash.

Financial abuse may not include physical violence or leave bruises, but it is a form of serious elder abuse. Nursing homes and the caregivers they employ are charged with taking care of your family, not financially exploiting them. At Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton, LLP, we can help you hold them accountable and seek compensation for the damage they have caused.

If you suspect that your loved one is being taken advantage of financially, notice missing valuables, or see a significant change in their financial situation, talk to an experienced nursing home abuse attorney with Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton, LLP. Contact us today by calling (859) 550-2900 and let’s talk about your concerns.

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