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The victim had no idea

Hill, 58, has served as an Orlando city commissioner since 2013. Investigators were tipped off about her relationship with the woman after the city official’s former aide brought forward a complaint over the way she was treated on the job, detailing the many personal tasks Hill assigned her.

When the FDLE spoke with the alleged victim, the woman said she didn’t give Hill permission to spend her money, and while “she recalled signing some sort of document,” she didn’t understand it and “would never have agreed to allow Hill to be a power of attorney” over her, according to the Sentinel’s report.

Much of the $100,000 that was taken from the woman’s account appears to have gone towards repairs for a home she owned, but Hill was occupying. Meanwhile, it doesn’t seem that any of that cash went towards improvements in the home she herself was living in — though they were in fact needed.

WFTV, which originally reported on the story, reached out to Hill for comment. She told them the accusations are false and that she’s hired an attorney to fight them, but declined to say anything further on the matter — including the name of her attorney.

Hill has yet to be charged in connection with the FDLE’s investigation, but could face removal from office if the agency decides to proceed with charges.

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A growing problem in the U.S.

Sadly, stories of older Americans being exploited by friends and family members — and even strangers, in Hill’s case — is increasingly common.

According to the National Council on Aging, up to 5 million older Americans are financially abused every year, accounting for an estimated $36.5 billion in losses.

A power of attorney can be a helpful document to have prepared for older adults should they become unable to make choices for themselves. Ideally, the decision-maker or “agent” you choose should be a person you trust implicitly.

But as many older Americans and their families are coming to find, there’s big risk involved when handing over control of your accounts. The Nursing Home Abuse Center has identified some signs to be on the lookout for power of attorney elder abuse, including:

  • Strange or unexplained bank withdrawals
  • The POA withholding bank statements from the elder/others
  • The elder being isolated from friends and family by the POA

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers older adults (and the people who love them) some tips on protecting against POA abuse, including:

  • Informing other friends, family members and financial advisers about the document’s existence so they can look out for you — and even help spot forged documents
  • Choose someone you deeply trust, and ensure they are aware of your wishes and preferences
  • Be on high alert if someone new in your life wants to “help you out” by handling your finances and be your new “best friend”

As the CFPB points out, if an offer for help seems too good to be sure, it likely is.

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Sigrid Forberg Associate Editor

Sigrid’s is Moneywise.com's associate editor, and she has also worked as a reporter and staff writer on the Moneywise team.

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