One woman's story of elder financial abuse

Anna Mae Franklin, 83, with her brother Arthur Cropsey, 91, sitting in the background at the Marjorie Doyle Rockwell Center, a retirement community.

Tess Vigeland: Now a story -- a somewhat complicated one -- about an all too common crisis, an elderly person whose life savings are stolen by a family member. Anna Mae Franklin learned about elder financial abuse the hard way. She's been caring for her 91-one-year-old brother Arthur Cropsey for the past couple of years; he suffers from dementia.

Within a few months of Anna Mae moving Arthur into her home, she discovered her daughter had been spending his money. Anna Mae lives with her two small dogs in a mobile home just north of Albany, N.Y.

My name is Anne Mae Franklin. I live in the town of Colonie -- for 70-something years. I am 83 years old. I came from a family of seven children, and they've all passed on except for my brother Arthur and myself.

I had been calling my brother and he wouldn't answer the phone in 2009; he kept hanging up on me. So on December 7, 2010, I called his neighbor. And his neighbor said that you must have had ESP because your sister-in-law died this morning.

I got out there and my daughter was with me. We got to his house, we knocked and knocked and finally he came. So I said to him, "Do you know who I am?" And he said, "Yeah you're my sister, Annie." And then the doctors started coming in and they said he has the starting of Alzheimer's.

There was a mess of bills and checks and everything. So we took all these checks that came in -- dividends and stuff -- and we went to the bank with it and I said we want to put this in my brother's account because they're laying in the house and his wife died. So he isn't going to be staying here, we're going to New York State. He says OK, that's easily done. He left and he came back and he had the whole statement there. He hands it to my daughter instead of me. In the meantime, Linda looks and this and she goes 'Ooh.' And I didn't even question anything about it afterwards. I just wanted to get back to New York State with him.

I had his checkbook that I brought some money up from California and put it in the bank and it had my name and my brother Art's name on it. It was for doctor bills, medical bills, hospital bills, anything pertaining to my brother. So she said to me, 'Mom, you better put my name on the checkbook because if I take him to the doctor's, then I gotta have a check.' She's my daughter, I trust her. Well she said, 'I have another thought, instead of the check, get me a debit card. Then I don't have to bother you at all.' They used that debit card every place they went and they spent $71,000 of my brother's money.

When I called my daughter, I said to her, 'Linda, what are you doing with the money?' She said, 'Are you accusing me?' I never heard from her again.

I don't know if she thinks and thinks of what she has done, but she's got to be numb if she doesn't.

Vigeland: Anne Mae's daughter Linda was ordered by a court to pay back $40,000 to her uncle. For a list of resources to protect yourself and your loved ones from elder financial abuse -- click here.

About the author

Kerry Donahue was the producer for the Marketplace Index with David Brancaccio until early 2012.
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My 88 year old father was the victim of financial elder abuse by his son and daughter-in law. We found that a Power of attorney, is basically a license to steal and if you give your credit card information to someone and they misuse the card, by you giving them your card information you have implicitly (by law) given them permission to use it. It has taken 3 years to try to get this case to trial with no trial date set yet. Bottom line, be very careful who you give power of attorney to. CHILDREN, take an active role in your parent's finances even if you feel like you are being intrusive. TRUST NO ONE! Make sure ALL children are reviewing the finances. See if someone trusted can do a quarterly review of the finances just in case all the children are in "cahoots". ELDERLY, TRUST NO ONE and review your own finances as long as you can. If you need help, don't just turn it over to a child, ask for a friend to help you review your statements monthly. We have found that there is a great deal of financial elder abuse going on. Some of it legal by annuity/insurance companies also. No matter what your age, someone is always trying to figure a way to get your money.

This type of scheme is very common and the authorities seldom prosecute. Depending on the State that this took place, local authorites make it a civil matter and make the "victims" hire an attorney which in my case was in the area between $20,000 - $40,000 with no promises on the outcome. Since these funds were not federal funds such as Social Security funds no indepentent person is ever involved in the transaction even if this person was blind it is still legal. My brother did a similar thing to me and took much more money and it was all legal now I have to take out loans to pay for my kids education and he never returns my phone calls......then he died ....must have been "karma from my mom!" contact me if you need more information or details...I am writing a book to help others to attempt to stop this since the laws do no apply to people that are blind, have Alzhiemer's Disease and are in their 90's. Bob Ayrsman

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