Tips to help the elderly avoid scams and thefts

Seventy-four-year-old Arthur Green spent years building his lakeside home. He says recently he was persuaded to sign it over to his granddaughter and was told he could live out his days there.

"All of a sudden she just like a - I don't know what - snap of the fingers, she changed. She got money hungry," said Green.

His granddaughter tried to evict him and sell the property.

"Arthur was absolutely at risk of homelessness. He was also completely impoverished because this land and house is the only thing of any value he owned in the world," said legal services attorney Denis Culley.

Culley says financial exploitation of seniors is all too common and often goes unreported.

A Consumer Reports' investigation finds theft and fraud by loved ones is on the rise.

"Caregivers, family members, neighbors, they can use all kinds of tactics to raid their assets," said Tobie Stanger of Consumer Reports.

They can be as obvious as forging signatures on checks, begging for loans that are never paid back, or abusing power of attorney.

"When you give power of attorney to somebody, it can give them unfettered access to your accounts. Somebody who misuses those can do real damage. And that's a real problem for the elderly," said Stanger.

Consumer Reports says to help prevent elder abuse have bank and investment statements sent to a person you trust to monitor accounts; arrange for direct deposit and automatic bill pay and consult a reputable elder law attorney for advice on wills and limiting power of attorney.

Fortunately for Green, a legal services program for the elderly he consulted obtained a court order voiding the granddaughter's deed - returning the property to him.

Consumer Reports is published by Consumers Union. Both Consumer Reports and Consumers Union are not-for-profit organizations that accept no advertising. Neither has any commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site.

(All Consumer Reports Material Copyright 2011. Consumers Union of U.S. Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

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