Coral Tudrick of Ticor Title opened a refinance transaction. The elderly borrower held title to the property in a trust. A power of attorney appointed the elderly borrower's daughter as his attorney–in–fact. Coral had difficulty contacting the daughter or borrower until the lender provided the daughter's phone number.
When scheduling the signing, the daughter told Coral her Father was "illiterate" and informed Coral she did not need to talk directly with her Father, the borrower. The daughter signed the documents through an approved notary.
When Coral received the documents, she reviewed them for a phone number of the borrower but did not find one. Without a way to verify or speak directly with the borrower, Coral made the decision to raise the issue to her branch manager, Linda Villa. Together, they discussed how the Daughter indicating her Father was illiterate could be a red flag for elder abuse and decided to bring this to the attention of the lender.
The lender requested a conference call with the elderly borrower, broker, escrow officer and title officer. The lender asked some very direct questions of the elderly borrower. The borrower stated he was "confused," or deferred to his Daughter.
When asked directly if the elderly borrower understood the Daughter was taking a loan out on the property he stated simply, "No." At that point, Coral and Linda obviously refused to proceed.
Coral's sharp perception helped recognize what could be a case of elder abuse. The decision to halt the transaction and talk with the borrower directly prevented the Daughter from defrauding her Father and prevented a potential claim to the Company.
In addition, Coral alerted her manager who in turn shared the incident with the national escrow administration team. The team provided direction for reporting the transaction and preventing future abuse against the homeowner. For her efforts, the Company rewarded Coral $1,500 and a letter of recognition.
Criminals, including family members of the elderly, often target elders for reasons including their wealth, mental state and less likelihood to report a crime. Many times the perpetrator is a known and trusted person. Being aware and recognizing potential abuses are key to stopping the crime in its tracks.
For more information on elder abuse, including a list of red flags, go to www.consumerfinance.gov and search for the Advisory and Report for Financial Institutions on Preventing Elder Financial Abuse.
This article was provided by contributing author, Scott Cummins, Advisory Director, Fidelity National Title Group, National Escrow Administration.