Keep an Eye on Our Senior Clients
In Real Estate today, more and more of your clients are likely to be seniors. Sadly, some of them may have been targets or victims of scams. Approximately 1.8 percent of reported fraud cases against seniors result in them losing their home or other properties.
Every state has legislated laws criminalizing financial abuse against the elderly especially in real estate, you should be familiar with the schemes. Potentially high-risk situations include: property investment, reverse mortgages, and foreclosure-rescue. Another form of financial abuse occurs when a trusted individual influences senior home owners to sell their property, often to devastating effect.
An ill-intentioned adult child may convince his parents to sign their home over to him, and then sell it out from under their feet. If you are vigilant for the signs of these abuses, you’ll avoid becoming ensnared in real estate transactions involving criminal or unethical exploitation of the elderly.
What can we do? Here are a few tips for protecting yourself and your senior clients.
1. Document and follow up.
Take extra care to be sure that the client understands and consents fully to every stage of a transaction. Follow up oral advice or updates with a written recap of the conversation.
2. Remember who your client is.
If a family member claims that he or she must make decisions on behalf of the elderly person due to health problems, make sure that an appropriate power of attorney is in place. Don’t allow yourself to be strong-armed by family members trying to make decisions on behalf of an elderly home owner.
3. Understanding Powers of attorney.
If a family member claims to represent an elder pursuant to a power of attorney, insist on receiving a copy and provide it to an independent lawyer to verify if it is
legitimate and applicable to the transaction at hand. If the family member would financially gain from the transaction, advise your client to delay the transaction and consult with an attorney to determine the appropriate steps.
4. Educate your team and clients.
Brokers should make sure that their agents are educated about real estate–related abuse of the elderly, and should talk to their clients about fraud risks.
5. Know the signs.
If an elderly client’s financial situation suddenly deteriorates, and he or she becomes emotionally withdrawn, this could signal that he/she is being taken advantage of.
6. Report suspected abuse.
You should report abuse if you suspect it. Your first call will likely be to your local Adult Protective Services agency.