A trusting 82-year-old 'Aiea man is struggling to restore his financial footing after giving away his durable power of attorney to a female acquaintance who used it to raid his bank account and obtain credit cards and a reverse mortgage that plunged him into staggering debt.
Friends who are helping the elderly man said cash losses and new debt from years of financial exploitation could top $750,000, with no guarantee of getting any of it back.
The 'Aiea man's predicament, now under investigation by the state Department of Human Services Adult Protective Services, is an example of how powers of attorney — used since ancient times to allow individuals to act on behalf of others in business transactions and other affairs — have become a license to steal from the elderly.
Most often the thieves are relatives or caregivers who take advantage of a senior's poor health or diminished mental capacity to gain control of bank accounts, homes and other assets for their own benefit, according to elder law experts and other advocates for the elderly.
"It's a huge problem," said Bruce Bottorff, associate state director of AARP. "We continue to do education and outreach because it is so prevalent and, frankly, underreported. People need to be vigilant as the population grows older."
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