As the U.S. population ages, financial exploitation of elders and adults who are vulnerable because of a physical or mental condition is becoming more common.

In South Carolina, financial exploitation includes, but is not limited to, “an improper, unlawful, or unauthorized use of the funds, assets, property, power of attorney, guardianship, or conservatorship of a vulnerable adult by a person for the profit or advantage of that person or another person.”  If this has occurred, the victim, the victim’s lawful representatives, or the victim’s estate, may bring a civil lawsuit for damages on his or her behalf.  A Court may award damages, reverse transactions, nullify improper changes to wills, trusts, and beneficiary designations, and possibly forfeit the wrongdoer’s expected inheritance.

The victim is often unable or unwilling to report the exploitation. Many exploiters are family members or caregivers, which causes a victim to acquiesce so as not to “rock the boat.”  If you notice a loved one exhibiting the signs of exploitation, contact Greenville DSS’s Adult Protective Services Unit at their hotline number (864) 467-7750. The Greenville County Sheriff Criminal Investigations Division has an Economic Crimes Unit that can also investigate financial exploitation. Call (864) 467-5300 to be put in touch with one of their investigators.  

Signs of exploitation can include:

  • Discomfort about a trip to the bank with a certain person
  • Implausible explanations of what has happened to certain funds or assets
  • Large or unusual gifts to caregivers
  • Concern over missing funds
  • Fear of what will happen if money is not provided to a caregiver
  • Attempts to isolate a vulnerable person from family members
  • Being forced to visit a lawyer or being prevented from doing so