State officials and senior advocates are warning nursing home and long-term care residents, as well as seniors aging in place about stimulus check exploitation. Many seniors are being exploited for government funds dispersed in COVID-19 stimulus checks.
Seniors Targeted in Stimulus Phishing Scams
To provide economic relief to millions of struggling Americans during the COVID-19 crisis, President Trump approved a $2 trillion national stimulus package. As a result, most Americans received stimulus checks in the amount of $1,200 to help with the impact of lost jobs and wages, groceries, and ongoing bills. Unfortunately, many elderly adults living in nursing homes and long-term care facilities who received stimulus checks have become victims of financial exploitation.
Many state officials have issued warnings about phising scams related to government stimulus checks, especially to senior adults who may be more vulnerable to financial exploitation. Millions of retired seniors receiving Social Security payments, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, and Railroad Retirement benefits received federal stimulus checks. Recently, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and numerous senior advocate groups warned seniors about scammers taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many seniors are being scammed out of their stimulus check funds by dishonest individuals sending bogus emails, texts, and phone calls.
In April, The Internal Revenue Service warned about potential scammers trying to fraudulently get stimulus money from vulnerable seniors. The IRS warned seniors about phone calls and emails from people inquiring about their stimulus checks and their personal information. The agency explained that the IRS will never contact anyone regarding personal information or information about stimulus checks. IRS warnings to seniors included the following red flags about stimulus check phishing scams:
- Scammers may reach out by phone, email, text, or social media for verification of personal and/or banking information
- The words “stimulus checks” or “stimulus payments” are emphasized
- The official IRS term is “economic impact payment”
- Check recipients may be asked to sign over their checks
- Scammers may suggest faster delivery of stimulus checks by providing specific personal information
- Scammers may mail a bogus check and ask recipients to call a number on the check for verification
Michigan, Attorney General, Dana Nessel, also issued warnings to senior l stimulus check recipients to stay on “high alert,” as stimulus check scams are on the rise. Attorney General Nessel recommended that people stay in constant communication with vulnerable family members, friends and neighbors, and their caregivers. Warnings in Michigan have gone out to seniors in private residences, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, long-term care facilities, and adult foster care homes.
Financial Exploitation in Nursing Homes
Illinois has the 7th largest nursing home population in the United States with 70,000 nursing home residents. Unfortunately, financial exploitation, as well as other forms of nursing home abuse is often seen by nursing home abuse lawyers across the state.
Financial exploitation in nursing homes is a common occurrence that is often perpetrated by dishonest staff members and caregivers who gain access to a resident’s finances and personal accounts. In many financial exploitation cases, victims of financial exploitation suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease, making them easy targets for financial predators. Residents who may suspect some type of financial exploitation may not know how to reach out for help or fail to report the abuse out of fear of retaliation. Elderly residents without family members or friends to check on them are extremely vulnerable to elder abuse in many forms. Warning signs of nursing home financial exploitation include:
- Disappearance of financial assets, documents, or checks
- Unexplained changes in finances, estate documents, or wills
- Unusual changes in spending habits
- Checks made out to cash in large amounts
- Gifting of money or personal property
- Unpaid bills and financial debts
Since April, Illinois nursing homes have seen a rise in financial exploitation regarding federal stimulus payments to residents on Medicare or Medicaid. Many residents have contacted the FTC or Chicago nursing home abuse attorneys about someone asking them to sign their stimulus checks over in order to continue receiving Medicare or Medicaid benefits.
FTC’s Elder Justice Coordinator reported that nursing home facilities are not permitted to request or take funds listed as tax credits under the CARES Act. Under the CARES Act, tax credits may not be used as “resources” for federal benefit programs like Medicare or Medicaid, so nursing homes can not claim them. Many residents and/or family members of exploited victims have reached out to Illinois nursing home abuse attorneys for legal advice and help with damages.
In Illinois, the statute of limitations for reporting nursing home abuse is two years from the date of injury. However, financial exploitation of the elderly has a longer statute of limitations because there’s a paperwork trail that doesn’t exist in other abuse cases. In 2016, the statute of limitations for financial exploitation of the elderly increased from three years to seven years.