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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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