It’s Your Money, Protect It! Brochure
A resource to help vulnerable West Virginians recognize and fight financial exploitation.
Protect Yourself from Financial Exploitation
Financial exploitation critically threatens the health, safety, dignity, and independence of vulnerable West Virginians. In this brochure, you will learn more about financial exploitation – what it is; who is at risk; who may be a perpetrator; how to identify it; and, what to do about it.
What Is Financial Exploitation?
Financial exploitation happens when someone illegally or improperly uses your money or property for his/her own benefit. This exploitation is often committed by a person you trust. Examples of financial exploitation may include:
- Taking money or other items from your home or bank account
- Selling or transferring your property without your knowledge, or against your wishes or interests
- Failing to provide services you agreed to, like care giving, home or vehicle repair, or financial management
- Using your credit cards for unauthorized purchases
- Using your name or good credit to open new credit accounts
- Misusing your Power of Attorney
- Refusing to return borrowed money or property, as agreed
- Changing your will, trusts, living trusts, or inheritance for their benefit
Who is at Risk of Financial Exploitation?
If you depend on someone else for any or all of your personal needs, you may be vulnerable to financial exploitation. Some vulnerable groups of adults may include: elders; people whose finances were handled by a spouse who has died; people who may be lonely; people who receive services in long-term care settings; people with all types of disabilities, and, people who have difficulty understanding financial matters.
Who is Likely to Commit Financial Exploitation?
You may fall victim to identity theft and other types of large-scale scams; however, you could also be exploited by “a person of trust.” Examples of people who may commit this type of exploitation are:
- Family members, friends, or members of your church
- Paid or volunteer caregivers
- Strangers introduced to you in public, over the phone, on the internet, or who come to the door
- Professionals like accountants, bankers, lawyers, or doctors
- New people in your life with no logical reason for being there
- Social Security Representative Payees
What Are The Warning Signs Of Possible Financial Exploitation?
You, your financial institution, or other people in your life might notice warning signs that you are being financially exploited. The signs may include:
- Financial activity inconsistent with your abilities or financial history
- A lot of new account withdrawals – usually in round numbers ($50, $100, etc.)
- Increased activity on your credit cards
- Withdrawals from your accounts in spite of financial penalties
- Changes in account beneficiaries or newly authorized signers on accounts
- You are confused about recent financial arrangements
- Changes in property titles, deeds, or refinanced mortgages
- Recent changes in Power of Attorney documents, wills, or trusts
- You have recently become more reluctant to discuss financial matters
- You have been isolated from contact with family members, friends, and/or society
- Your mail, phone calls, visitors, and/or outings have been taken over by the potential exploiter
- You have been falsely worried that you will lose your house and be placed in a nursing home
- You have been told that no one but the potential exploiter cares about you
- Your food or medication has been manipulated or withheld so you become weak and compliant
- You have been threatened with harm, neglect, or abandonment if you don’t agree to do as you are told
- Your caregiver or beneficiary refuses to use your funds for necessary care and treatment
Have you been exploited? Take Action
There are steps you can take to help protect against financial exploitation and resources available if you believe you are being exploited. It is important to know your limitations and seek help when your financial arrangements have gotten out of your control. If you have been financially exploited, call your financial institution immediately. Financial Exploitation is a crime. If you think you have been financially exploited, contact local or State law enforcement to file a report. You can find additional resources on the back of this brochure.
For victims of fraud and scams:
The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 1–800–368–8808 is for victims of consumer fraud, telemarketing or internet scams, identity theft, fake check schemes, and preneed funeral fraud. On the web at http://www.wvago.gov.
Call the West Virginia Securities Commission, a division of the State Auditor’s Office, at 888–724–3982 to check broker/investment adviser registration and report potential investment fraud. Frequently updated investor alerts can also be found online at https://www.wvsao.gov.
For Residents of Long Term Care Facilities:
The Office of Health Facility Licensure and Certification (OHFLAC) Nursing Home Program inspects licensed nursing homes and participating nursing facilities. When a resident (or legal representative) authorizes one of these facilities to handle the resident’s personal funds, OHFLAC’s Nursing Home Program will inspect the facility for compliance with State and/or Federal requirements with respect to the protection and management of those funds and will cite deficiencies when found. Call 304–558–0050. On the web at http://www.wvdhhr.org/ohflac/Default.aspx.
The WV Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program assists residents of long-term care facilities with many types of complaints. Anyone can make a confidential complaint on behalf of a resident. There is no cost for this service. Please call 1–800–834–0598 ext. 2135.
The Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) provides Adult Protective Services for mentally and/or physically incapacitated adults who live in their own home or reside in facilities throughout WV. DHHR provides investigation, assessment, and time-limited case management services intended to protect these adults from abuse and neglect. Referrals for neglect, abuse, and financial exploitation may be directed to any local DHHR office or at 1-800-352-6513. On the web at http://www.wvdhhr.org.
The DHHR Medicaid Fraud Control Unit conducts criminal investigations into financial exploitation by caregivers and facilities. The tipline is 1-888-Fraud-WV. Their mainline is 1-304-558-1858.
Legal Aid of West Virginia is a nonprofit legal advocacy group serving low-income West Virginians. Legal Aid focuses on a broad range of civil legal matters throughout the state, including financial exploitation. Call Legal Aid between 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, Monday through Friday at 1-866-255-4370. On the web at http://www.lawv.net.
Disability Rights of West Virginia is a private, non-profit agency dedicated to protecting and advocating for the legal rights of West Virginians with disabilities, DRWV may provide information and referral, investigation, assistance in self-advocacy, and/or short term assistance when receiving allegations of financial exploitation. Services are confidential and free of charge. Call 1-800-950-5250. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org On the web at https://www.drofwv.org/.
West Virginia Senior Legal Aid – Any WV senior can speak to an attorney free of charge about civil legal matters and learn about his/her rights and what steps he/she may take to exercise them. For senior victims of financial exploitation, they try to find private attorneys for pro bono representation in litigation or other legal action. Call 1–800–229–5068. Email email@example.com On the web at http://seniorlegalaid.net.
National Domestic Violence Hotline – For assistance with domestic violence call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
This publication was created in collaboration with the West Virginia Financial Exploitation Task Force, whose mission is to empower individuals and create a culture and an environment where vulnerable adult West Virginians are safe from financial exploitation. Agencies represented on the Task Force include:
- Disability Rights of West Virginia
- West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence
- West Virginia Attorney General’s Office
- Legal Aid of West Virginia
- West Virginia Senior Legal Aid
- West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources
- AARP Foundation
- West Virginia Bureau of Senior Services
This brochure is funded by: U.S. Department of Education, Rehabilitation Services Administration; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Developmental Disabilities; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration. For alternate formats, call 1-800-950-5250 Version 2.0