Reporting Jon Delano
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s a common occurrence — family members ripping off an elderly parent.
A recent Consumer Reports’ investigation finds theft and fraud by loved ones is on the rise.
“They take advantage of them, and they are much more susceptible to it because they say — well it’s my daughter, it’s my granddaughter, it’s my son — somebody that they trust,” says Carol Sikov Gross, a Pittsburgh elder law attorney.
Sikov Gross is one of Pittsburgh’s seven certified elder law attorneys — there are only 430 nationwide — and she has seen that abuse right here.
“Father gets his daughter to put her name on his bank account, and suddenly daughter is taking out money from father’s account,” she says.
Take the case of 74-year-old Arthur Green who built a lakeside retirement home and was persuaded to sign it over to his granddaughter with the promise he could live out his days there.
“Snap of the fingers, she changed. She got money hungry,” Green says of his granddaughter.
His granddaughter tried to evict him and sell the property.
“Arthur was absolutely at risk of homelessness,” says Denis Culley, Green’s attorney through Neighborhood Legal Services. “He was also completely impoverished because this land and house is the only thing of any value he owned in the world.”
This is not far-fetched.
“I get calls all the time about that,” adds Sikov Gross. “‘What would it cost to do a deed? I want to add my kids. I want to put my house in their name.’”
But like joint bank accounts, it can be a license for abuse.
“Once you put someone else’s name on your deed, they’re an owner,” Sikov Gross says. “So their creditors can come after your house. If they get divorced, their ex-spouse can come after your house. They can try to sell your house.”
Consumer Reports advises seniors to have bank statements sent to a person you trust to monitor accounts — arrange for direct deposit and automatic bill pay — and consult an elder law attorney for legal changes involving children.
“Most people can trust their family members, but you just have to make sure you do it the right way,” adds Sikov Gross.