The elderly are particularly vulnerable to being exploited by their caretakers. This is why the Palm Beach County Clerk and Comptroller started the county’s guardianship fraud hotline last October. The hotline has since received 57 calls, which have led to 13 investigations into possible fraudulent activity. The police have taken control of 12 of these cases.

The need for such a hotline is apparent in the various cases of fraud against the elderly that come in all different varieties. In one case, a guardian had taken advantage of an elderly woman who has lost most of her memory to Alzheimer’s by convincing his ward to purchase a 56-inch flat-screen television. But the elderly woman currently lives in a Palm Beach County care facility.

Another incident finds a neighbor of an elderly woman taking advantage of the woman who lives alone. The neighbor offers to take the woman to the bank everyday and has her withdraw $1,000 each time. However, the bank finally became suspicious and eventually contacted Florida state investigators.

It is because of cases like these that the hotline is an essential asset to the elderly community in Palm Beach County. When seniors are no longer competent enough to handle their affairs, the court creates a guardianship in which an individual is charged with the responsibility of making decisions regarding the elderly person’s finances, living situation and other personal affairs. With the number of guardianships in the county increasing by 15 percent every year, the need for more oversight has increased dramatically.

With so many incidences of suspected fraud perpetrated against vulnerable adults experts have listed some of the warning signs family, friends and neighbor’s of elderly folks should look for to ensure the person is not being taken advantage of. First, look for a change in behavior, such as not attending church as often or other activities normally enjoyed by the person. Does the person have odd new possessions such as a new car in the driveway when they cannot drive, or are new people frequently visiting the home?

It is important to protect our elderly loved ones and setting up a guardianship before the courts assign one is one of the best ways to ensure a trusted person oversees your loved one’s estate and personal affairs.