Consumer beware! With a larger population of aging people comes an increased likelihood of “undue influence” practiced against vulnerable older adults. Undue influence is something all us should become familiar with – especially if we have a loved one of advanced age in our lives. My colleague Georgia Anetzberger, PhD, a fellow of the Gerontological Society and a professor of health care administration at Cleveland State University explained “undue influence” to me it this way:
“Undue influence is a type of exploitation, where there is a substitution of one person's will for the true desires of another. It occurs when one person uses his/her role and power to exploit the trust, dependency, and fears of another.
Undue influence is not a crime per se in Ohio, but it is a method by which a crime is committed, such as theft. From the growing literature on undue influence, frequent characteristics of victims include: recent loss of a significant relationship, fear of being alone and dependent, health decline, unsophisticated trusting personality, and apparent significant assets. Frequent characteristics of perpetrators who are career criminals include: clear planning, targeting and "grooming" the victim, using charm, and employing specific tactics to achieve the goal.
Possible indicators of undue influence include: inappropriate person doing the banking or accompanying the banking, changes in the routines of the victim with respect to finances and social contacts, large unexplained withdrawals, newly opened accounts or credit cards, missing funds or valuables, abrupt change of a will, and lifestyle of the victim declining.