Fiduciary Abuse of the Elderly: A Prosecutor’s Perspective
Candace J. Heisler, JD
Jane B. Tewksbury, JD
ABSTRACT. Fiduciary abuse of the elderly is an increasingly recognized social problem. While all seniors are potential victims, the oldest members of society are at greater risk. This article identifies those at risk, profiles those most likely to commit financial abuse, describes indicators of abuse, defines commonly encountered crimes, and explains the roles of service professionals and the criminal justice system in responding to incidents of financial abuse.
An elderly woman is befriended by several young men who move into her home and convince her to allow them to cash her checks, depleting her checking account. A band of men, working in groups of two or three, pose as water department workers and convince elders that the water pipes in their homes are about to burst. The elders pay several thousand dollars to the “water department” to repair their pipes. Once the money is paid, the men vanish without performing any work. A homemaker responsible for house cleaning and grocery shopping for an elderly woman finds the woman’s bank book and checks and forges a series of checks. A young companion of an elderly woman has his name added to the woman’s credit cards and then purchases merchandise worth several thousand dollars for himself. An adult son moves into his parents’ home, intercepts their monthly pension checks, and uses the money to buy cocaine. The parents are left without electricity, heat, or food, and the rent is unpaid.
These are all examples of financial exploitation of the elderly, a common but not often recognized form of elder abuse. Each may well constitute a criminal act subject to prosecution by the local prosecutor. The purposes of this article are to define the term financial exploitation and review its incidence, identify who may be at risk and at whose hands, describe indicators of financial abuse, inventory commonly encountered criminal acts, and explain the role of the professional and criminal justice system in responding to the problem. While collateral or alternative civil interventions may also be available, this article will focus on possible criminal justice agency responses.
DEFINITIONS OF FIDUCIARY ABUSE
Referred to alternatively as material abuse, financial abuse, economic abuse, material exploitation, and financial exploitation, fiduciary abuse includes misuse or blocking access to property, possessions or insurance, or theft or extortion of the same, or some combination thereof. It is the illegal or improper exploitation and/or use of funds or other resources. Fiduciary abuse is generally accomplished by force, misrepresentation, or other illegal means that take advantage of an elder’s partial or complete incompetency. It is often perpetrated by a caretaker or person who stands in a fiduciary relationship to the senior and who takes, secretes, or appropriates the elder’s money or property for any use or purpose not in the due and lawful execution of his or her trust or duty. The acts are done for monetary or personal gain, benefit, or profit. The term financial exploitation in all of its forms does not define a particular crime; rather it encompasses a wide range of criminal acts that are defined below.
INCIDENCE OF FINANCIAL EXPLOITATION
The National Aging Resource Center on Elder Abuse (NARCEA) estimates that in 1988, based on a study of data from 24 states, 20% of the Americans who were victims of elder abuse were victims of financial exploitation. The U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Aging, Subcommittee on Health and Long-Term Care, conducted a study of state adult protective service workers and found that in every one of the 49 reporting states, reports of financial abuse were among the elder abuse reports received. In 1988, in California alone, it is estimated that approximately 186,000 cases of elder abuse occurred. Of these, 41.5%, or more than 75,000 cases, involved financial abuse.
In her survey of the elderly in Canada, Elizabeth Podnieks found that 4% of all Canadian seniors are the victims of some form of elder abuse. The most common form of abuse identified was material abuse, affecting 2.5% of the population and representing more than 50% of all reported cases of elder abuse. A study of elders with significant cognitive and physical impairments in the Boston area reported that approximately one-third of the cases involved material abuse.
In a study of the frail elderly of San Francisco, researcher Cynthia Jones surveyed 500 randomly selected conservatorship cases of the San Francisco Superior Court filed during a 2-year period. In 11.2% of the cases, elder abuse was documented. This figure is far higher than the estimated 4% incidence rate within the general elderly population. Financial abuse was documented in 73.2% of the cases while physical abuse was reported in 26%. of the cases. These numbers dramatically demonstrate that the service professional is likely to confront incidents of financial abuse while working with senior clients. Recognizing who is at risk and who is a possible perpetrator will assist the professional in developing an effective response.
WHO IS AT RISK AND WHY
While there is no formula that will predict who will be a victim of financial abuse, there are indicators to assist the service professional in determining who may be at greatest risk. Victims are typically old or old-old, female, and socially isolated. They are most often financially independent and usually have significant assets. In the Jones study, victims had assets that averaged $50,000.00. Victims are often unmarried, rarely report their victimization to law enforcement, are often invisible to social service agencies, may exhibit eccentric behavior, and often cannot leave an abusive situation or provide credible evidence in court. Frequently, victims and offenders are “caught in a web of interdependency and disability which makes it difficult for them to seek or accept outside help or to consider separation.” While none of these factors standing alone indicates that financial abuse has occurred, an elder who falls into one or more of these categories is at increased risk for becoming a victim of financial exploitation.
Knowledge of who may be at greatest risk for financial exploitation is helpful to the service professional. However, more significant are the characteristics associated with offenders. “Material abuse seemed to be almost exclusively related to the financial needs of perpetrators…”
Abusers are often the elder’s caretaker, are most often male, are much younger than the victim, have a history of mental or emotional problems, abuse alcohol or other drugs, and have serious medical problems. In addition, there is strong evidence to suggest that the offender is often financially dependent on the victim. Rosalie Wolf’s Three Model Project study found that 50% of the cases involved financial abuse. In the Jones’ study, data on financial dependence generally was not available; however, where it was obtainable, the data showed that the offender was financially dependent on the victim in 90% of the financial exploitation cases. In contrast, the Canadian study by Elizabeth Podnieks found that only 7% of the offenders were financially dependent on their victims. Dr. Wolf’s study concluded that the offender is often a relative and, frequently, is a son. Dr. Podnieks’ study found that the offender is most often a friend, neighbor, or acquaintance (40%) and less often a son or daughter (29%), a distant relative (24%), or a spouse (2%).
While the presence of these characteristics, relationships, or circumstances alone does not prove that financial abuse has occurred, their existence should alert the service professional to an increased risk for abuse.
Financial need and greed partially explain why seniors are victimized. Their vulnerability and naiveté and the potential case difficulties posed by elderly witnesses further explain why elders are targeted. While these generalizations may not be applicable in every case, they provide insight into why a senior may be taken advantage of by an offender.
- Vulnerability: Elderly people are easily identifiable. In the water department cases, victims were asked if a senior citizen lived at the residence. Elders who responded were then told that a special financial incentive existed just for seniors. Overall, the elderly are highly visible. They frequently use aids when walking or display handicapped placards when driving and are often physically frail. They often live alone and may be isolated and lonely. They are often trusting and trustworthy. Many appreciate the attention, gifts, favors, and gestures of affection provided by offenders who may remind them of a departed or distant loved one.
- Naiveté: Seniors maybe unsophisticated in money matters and may be unaware of the value of their assets, particularly if purchased years earlier. They may be inexperienced in handling financial matters, especially if such matters have long been handled by others. Seniors are slow to recognize what has happened to them or to react to signs that they are being exploited. For example, a legally blind elderly homeowner in San Francisco was asked to sign a “loan application” for home repairs. Later she learned that what she had actually signed was a grant deed transferring title to her home. In another case, family members audited an elderly woman’s financial records and discovered that her credit cards had been used to charge thousands of dollars of unauthorized merchandise for a male companion helper who by then had fled the state. In a third case, a victim, whose savings had been wiped out by recent acquaintances who had misused her checkbook, refused to believe that these “nice young men” who had befriended her and moved into her home could have victimized her.
- Case/Witness Difficulties: Even when elderly victims recognize what has happened, many are unwilling or unable to take action. Many fail to even report their losses. They may feel guilt, embarrassment, or they may believe they are at fault. Others are filled with self-reproach for being gullible. Others feel that since the offender, particularly when it is a relative, would have received the property eventually, it was acceptable for him or her to get it a little sooner. Many victims feel violated and suffer from shattered self-images and destroyed self-confidence. Most are frightened by the criminal justice system and intimidated by the fear of going to court, seeing the offender, or giving testimony. Many feel that their victimization will be used to prove they are incompetent and will result in their being institutionalized. Many feel they will not be believed.
In addition, many elderly victims are, in fact, poor witnesses. They may be confused about the facts or events. Evidence may have been removed or destroyed by the offender, leaving the victim with nothing to help recall events or to corroborate testimony. Seniors may be confused by the tactics and questions of the attorneys. Some are not legally competent to testify. Even those who are able and willing to testify may not survive a prosecution, particularly if the process is lengthy.
The service professional that discovers financial abuse can play a major role in reassuring the victim, encouraging or assisting the senior in making a report, or making a report on behalf of the elder. The service professional can assist the criminal justice system in developing the case and in identifying possible witnesses and sources of evidence. By cooperating with the criminal justice system and providing support to the victim, the professional serves the individual client and protects other seniors from becoming victims in the future. A further discussion of the role of the service professional is contained in a later section of this article.
INDICATORS OF FINANCIAL ABUSE
When assisting an elderly client, the service provider should be aware of indicators that suggest financial abuse has occurred. When the client is at increased risk for financial exploitation, for example, the caretaker exhibits some of the characteristics of an abuser, then the presence of indicators of financial abuse should alert the service professional about the need to take immediate action to confirm whether abuse has occurred. Some indicators relate to the potential abuser’s behavior; others are signals that further investigation is needed.
Indicators Related to Abusers
Abusers may demonstrate the following behaviors: (1) hostility toward interviewers and visitors; (2) verbal abuse directed at the senior, including threats, insults, or harsh speech; (3) dominance over the elder including speaking for the elder; (4) a tendency to isolate the elder from others; (5) a lack of understanding of the elder’s needs or a lack of concern for the senior including a refusal to spend money on the victim’s care; (6) tardiness in paying bills or refusing to pay them at all; (7) depression; (8) absence of a visible means of support, as evidenced by joblessness or lack of funds; (9) exaggerated defensiveness or excessive concern for the elder; (10) unusual interest in the amount of money spent on the elder’s care or concern that too much money is being spent on care; (11) a promise of lifelong care in return for signing over assets; (12) the removal of an elder from a nursing facility when skilled nursing is needed, especially when the family is eligible to receive funds to care for the senior at home; (13) the continual presence of a caregiver whenever the senior is interviewed or visited; and/or (14) an unexplained or sudden disappearance of the caregiver.
Even if a suspected abuser does not exhibit these behaviors, the following indicators are highly significant and should warrant further, careful investigation: (1) unusual activity in a bank account including bank activity inconsistent with the victim’s abilities, e.g., bedridden senior making automatic teller machine (ATM) withdrawals; (2) recent, new acquaintances expressing affection for or residing with an elder who has assets; (3) lack of amenities when the victim can afford such items, disconnected utilities, and/or eviction notices; (4) new authorized signer on credit cards or unusual activity on credit card accounts, especially if the purchases are not for the victim or occur when the senior is confused or incompetent; (5) forged or suspicious signatures on documents when the elder cannot write; (6) failure to deliver guaranteed services for which payment has been made; (7) uncared for elder, or one with unkempt clothing, bedding, or residence; (8) untreated medical or mental health problems; (9) missing pension, stock, or government payments or mail, bills, or checks no longer being received at the usual address; (10) lack of documentation or formal arrangements for the elder’s care; (11) implausible explanations about the senior’s financial affairs; (12) lack of awareness by the senior about already completed financial arrangements, or confusion or lack of comprehension about these financial arrangements such as a recently executed power of attorney, a new will, particularly if it is drawn in favor of a new friend, or a recent change in title of a senior’s home or other property; (13) destruction or removal of the senior’s bank books, safe deposit box key, credit cards, correspondence, or bills; and/or (14) missing property.
Each jurisdiction has its own definitions or names for certain criminal acts. However, there are similarities in the conduct prohibited. The following is a list of some of the commonly encountered crimes associated with financial exploitation of the elderly.
- Larceny is the taking or stealing of the property of another with the specific intent to permanently deprive the owner of it. Larceny is one form of theft.
- Theft by trick and device is obtaining another person’s property by making a false promise without the intent to carry it out and with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of his or her property. The persons posing as water department employees who obtained money to repair elderly homeowners’ pipes and then disappeared without doing any work committed theft by trick and device.
- Theft by embezzlement is accepting property from another while a relationship of trust and confidence exists and thereafter converting or appropriating the property to one’s own use with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of it. If a court appointed conservator takes an elder’s checkbook to pay the elder’s bills and then writes himself a check to pay for a vacation trip, that is embezzlement.
- Theft by false pretenses is obtaining property from another through a false or fraudulent representation with the specific intent to permanently deprive the owner of it. The person who told the elderly blind homeowner that she was signing a loan application for home repairs, when the senior was actually executing a grant deed, obtained the home by false pretenses.
- Burglary is the entering (and sometimes also the breaking into) of a building or other structure of another to commit theft or any other felony. Entering someone’s home to steal is burglary. In California, entering a bank to fraudulently misuse another’s check or ATM card is also burglary.
- Forgery is the unauthorized signing of a check, sales draft, or other written instrument of another with the intent to defraud. In addition, forgery is the passing or presenting of a counterfeit, false, or forged document of another with the intent to defraud. Signing another’s check with his or her name without permission, with the intent to keep the proceeds, is also forgery. Some states, including California, have different code violations for different types of forgery. For example, forgery of a credit card sales draft is a different crime from forgery of a deed or check. Other states may also have separate crimes for possession of a forged check and presenting another’s check with intent to defraud.
- Issuing a check without sufficient finds, or “NSF,” is committed when one knowingly makes or presents a check or money order without sufficient funds to cover the check with the intent to defraud.
- Making a false financial statement is knowingly making a false statement in writing concerning one’s financial condition intending that the false statement be relied upon. In financial abuse cases, offenders sometimes obtain credit by using the credit history of deceased relatives or the elder’s deceased spouse.
- False personation or impersonation is presenting oneself as another and, in that assumed identity, obtaining money or property, knowing it is intended for the other person, with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of it.
- Receiving or possessing stolen property is knowingly buying or receiving stolen or extorted property or the concealing, withholding, or selling of property known to be stolen.
Some states have specialized elder abuse statutes that include financial abuse of an elder as an act constituting a crime. In California, for example, the elder abuse statute includes theft or embezzlement from an elder by a caretaker. A person can be punished under the specialized elder abuse law as well as the more general criminal statute(s). Other specialized statutes such as filing a forged instrument for recording, falsifying a public record, or committing perjury may also apply in certain cases.
The service professional is well advised to become familiar with commonly encountered crimes. It is important for the service professional to have a contact person in the local police or prosecution agency who can advise him or her on the precise crime and its elements in a particular case.
ROLE OF THE SERVICE PROFESSIONAL
Financial abuse can be difficult to detect, investigate, and prove. Practitioners may not be accustomed to asking clients about money. An elder may be reluctant to divulge the location of his bank account or may swear that the $20,000 he gave a person he just met was a ‘gift.’ It can be difficult to check the nature of bank accounts because banks have strict confidentiality guidelines which prohibit them from sharing information with practitioners. Forgery can be very hard to prove…
Routine Case Management
On a routine basis, the professional should assess if the client is capable of managing his or her own financial affairs and if there are sufficient assets to provide for the elder’s needs. In addition, the professional should assess if the elder’s assets are at risk and, if so, the level of urgency and danger; the client’s level of functioning; the persons or groups that can help and support the senior; and the senior’s willingness and ability to accept any needed help or changes.
At all times, the service professional should carefully and completely document all observations, explanations by caregivers, and statements by the senior-client. Whenever possible, significant responses particularly by the caregiver and client should be written down verbatim, being sure to note the role, demeanor, and legal responsibilities of the senior and the caregiver. Observations concerning the senior’s mental and physical capacities are critical as they may be later used to establish competency or its absence, may establish whether a senior could execute a written document or give consent, and may prove that a senior had control over a certain item on a particular date. Observations made when everything appears to be in order are invaluable as a comparison between what was and what is later discovered.
If there is a suspicion that a client is at risk for financial abuse, the professional should consider steps to reduce the risk factors. These include collecting financial information, identifying persons and programs to assist the senior, and offering assistance to the potential offender. An effort should always be made to interview the client. When talking to the elder, the professional should determine if the client has concerns about economic matters. Does the client have any fears or suspicions that something is amiss? Has the elder signed any documents he/she did not understand or that were not fully explained? Have loans or gifts recently been made? Have there been any recent significant changes in the elder’s financial condition? Does the elder think that anyone is using his/her checks or is anyone accompanying him/her to the bank to get money?
The professional must determine if any suspicions are founded. If so, then some further investigation will be required, including the collection of basic financial information such as sources of income, amount of outstanding bills, and who pays these bills. What is the method of payment? Who is listed on bank accounts and credit cards? Are there special assets such as jewelry, art objects, or collections? Where are they kept? Who has access to them? Who lives at the elder’s home? How long have they lived there? What is the nature of that (or those) persons’ tenancy? This information can be collected by the service professional directly from the client or from the person designated by the elder to have that information.
When collecting information, the professional should attempt to ascertain the nature and location of bank accounts, safe deposit boxes, credit cards, stocks and bonds, checkbooks, monthly bank statements, wills, and other legally significant documents. If the senior does not want to entrust such information to the professional, the elder should be encouraged to provide it to an attorney, relative, or trusted friend other than the caregiver.
It may be appropriate to suggest or implement procedures to protect an elder’s assets from the caregiver or recent acquaintance. These may include suggesting that the elder open a joint account with a person other than the caregiver or requiring two signatures on checks over a certain sum, or establishing the direct deposit of pension or social security checks. Other possibilities include case management services, home care assistance, representative payees, or powers of attorney. In addition, activities to reduce the elder’s isolation and dependence on a particular person including participation in senior activities, such as day care centers, may be advisable.
Finally, if the caregiver is willing to accept assistance, he or she should be referred to job training or educational institutions, medical or mental health facilities, alcohol or other drug abuse programs, or psychological or psychiatric treatment clinics. Further, community services such as home care help or day care centers for the senior may also benefit the overstressed or depressed caregiver by providing time to obtain needed community services to reduce his or her dependence on the elder.
Notifying the Police
Where early interventions are inadequate or where actual abuse is suspected, providing services to potential offenders and seniors and documenting observations are not enough. Careful consideration must be given to contacting local law enforcement or at least initiating an agency investigation. At this stage, the professional should consult with supervisors, review state reporting requirements since many mandate the reporting of financial exploitation just as they mandate the reporting of physical abuse, document all observations and review earlier file notations, contact the persons with knowledge of the senior’s financial affairs, and carefully interview the client.
Once the service professional is satisfied that financial abuse has probably occurred, he or she should encourage the elder to make a police report. If the senior is reluctant or anxious, other persons with relevant knowledge can contact law enforcement. In fact, police are sometimes notified by bank employees, merchants, family physicians, and concerned friends and neighbors. When calling the police, it is important to provide sufficient information to satisfy the police agency that a potentially criminal matter is being reported and that it is, or is not, a matter of immediate urgency. Police assign priorities to calls. If the matter requires immediate action, it will be handled quickly; if it is not urgent, the matter will be assigned a low priority. When the crime occurred in the past and has just been discovered, the police probably will treat it as a low priority and assign an officer to do a follow-up investigation. On the other hand, if the suspect is on the way to the victim’s bank to withdraw her life’s savings, it is imperative that the call to police stress the need for immediate action.
Generally, when calling the police, an operator, known as a dispatcher, receives the calls and, where appropriate, dispatches patrol officers to respond to the call. The dispatcher does not come to the crime scene or take the information for a police report. The dispatcher gives the responding police unit a brief summary of the nature of the call, the identity of the caller, and the location to be visited. Therefore, the person who calls should expect to repeat all information (provided to the dispatcher) to the responding police officer.
The person who calls the police needs to give the following information:
- The caller’s name, occupation, and location.
- The nature of the information.
- The identity, location, and age of the victim.
- The identity and location of the offender, if known.
- An indication of whether there is immediate danger to the victim, the victim’s property, the caller, or any other person.
The responding officer will also need to review, and possibly take as evidence, any supporting records, documents, bank books, or photographs that the caller or the senior may have. The officer will want to know: (1) the caller’s professional evaluation of the victim’s competency to recount what happened; (2) the victim’s capacity to handle financial affairs; (3) the caller’s relationship and history with the senior and offender; (4) the caller’s knowledge of the suspected abuser; (5) the identity and location of other witnesses; (6) the existence of a conservator or guardian; and (7) a description of the factors and indicators that led to the conclusion that financial abuse has probably occurred. Police will need to know the location of bank accounts, other assets, and any other evidence that may assist in proving that the victim did not authorize or understand the transaction(s) at issue.
Criminal Justice System
The service professional has an important role to play with both the criminal justice system and the victim. The professional can ensure that the police have the information needed for their investigation. Indeed, when the police are initially called, it is unlikely that anyone will have as much knowledge of the facts, the victim, and the suspect as the professional.
The professional will be especially important to the client who may be in crisis and destitute, and may have no one to perform the services previously provided by the caretaker-abuser. In short, the role of the professional is not completed but may well expand from helping the client to also assisting the criminal justice system in processing the case.
Once a report is made, law enforcement will need the professional’s continued cooperation in locating other witnesses, providing personal observation testimony, and supplying evidence from the agency’s file. If the law enforcement investigation yields sufficient evidence, the prosecutor will review the case and make a decision regarding prosecution. The prosecutor will rely heavily on the professional to ensure that the victim’s basic needs are met. In addition, the professional’s insight and experience will be helpful in determining if the victim can withstand the criminal process and if the victim is now competent to testify or was on a prior occasion capable of giving consent or understanding the series of transactions the elder allegedly completed with the offender.
If a case is to be fully investigated, all witnesses must be located and interviewed. This includes the victim, whenever possible. If the victim is incompetent, deceased, grossly confused, demented, or comatose, prosecutions may still be possible if other evidence exists to prove the elements of the crimes charged.
It is important in every case that the suspect be interviewed. Generally, suspect interviews should be conducted by law enforcement officials. However, if for some reason such a procedure is not possible or likely, the professional should know that statements made to a professional who is not working for law enforcement are usually admissible in a later criminal prosecution. There is no duty or requirement that professionals who are not law enforcement officials, and who are not conducting an interview on behalf of law enforcement, advise a suspect of his or her Miranda rights. If the professional has occasion to interview a suspect, it is strongly recommended that he or she do so away from the senior-victim. The statement should be tape recorded or the interview should be conducted with another witness present. Complete notes of the interview should also be taken, including, when possible, verbatim quotations. If multiple transactions occurred, the suspect should be questioned about these one at a time. For each transaction it is necessary to determine who was present and where it occurred and to clarify what financial items were involved, their value, and for what rendered service they were received. A complete description of the suspect’s job duties is needed as well as the duration of the job and whether any regular salary was received. A determination must be made on whether there is an expectation of future gifts and, if so, the basis for the expectation. Any other income sources of the offender must be determined. If the suspect admits engaging in the transaction, it is important to ascertain exactly what was done and why. Determining if the suspect is a drug or alcohol abuser and finding out whether the abuser suffers from a medical or psychiatric condition are central considerations. The offender’s attitude toward the senior should be probed. The disposition of the assets or the proceeds from the sale of the assets must be determined as well as ascertaining if any property can be recovered and returned to the senior. Interviews that are conducted about these issues will clarify what occurred, will identify the legal issues, will narrow possible defenses, and will establish what are appropriate pretrial protective orders and post-conviction recommendations.
The professional can also assist the prosecutor in seeking an appropriate case resolution. Because the professional frequently knows the offender, he or she can advise the prosecutor whether recommendations for counseling, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, job skills training, no-contact with the senior victim, or other conditions are appropriate. In addition, because the professional knows the senior, recommendations for actions to protect the victim-senior, to make him or her financially whole, and to rebuild the senior’s self-confidence and sense of self-worth will be especially helpful.
Even with the professional’s efforts and a strong commitment for cooperation among law enforcement, the prosecution, and the service professional, financial exploitation cases are difficult to prove. The reasons are many. Records are often missing, hopelessly disorganized, or incomplete. Victims may be legally unavailable due to incapacity or death. Even if available, memories may be flawed or confused. While these impediments are serious, some prosecutions are still possible. Use of subpoenas for witnesses, search warrants, court orders, and subpoenas duces tecum for records allow prosecutors to locate and produce some, if not all, of the needed evidence. Careful review of records allows lost documents and transactions to be reconstructed. Court evidentiary rules may allow certain statements of the victim or suspected offender to be admitted. Medical, neurological, and geriatric assessment can help establish a victim’s competence, or lack thereof, when such an issue is raised. And special procedures, such as the use of depositions, conditional examinations, and expedited processing, available in many states, will assure that some prosecutions can be undertaken with the expectation that they will result in convictions.
Successful prosecutions can only be assured if service professionals work closely with law enforcement agencies and the prosecution. Acting alone, no one will succeed. Agency distrust and miscommunication will leave victims inadequately protected and allow offenders to escape criminal sanctions for egregious acts of financial exploitation. Working together will result in successful prosecution of these cases, thus holding accountable offenders who exploit the elderly. Victims will be empowered allowing them to rebuild their self-esteem and their lives.