Sometimes people turn away from unpleasant subjects, and this is understandable in a way, but it is not wise in some instances cases. This dynamic definitely applies to financial abuse of the elderly.
The crime of elder financial abuse was not acknowledged or studied very much until the groundbreaking MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse was released about ten years ago. They estimated annual losses at $2.6 billion at that time, but there was a significant qualifier.
Researchers determined that four out of five cases go unreported, so they acknowledged that actual losses could be considerably greater. The New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study that was published around the same time found that only 4 percent of cases were reported.
Any way you slice it, the vast majority of instances of elder financial abuse are never brought to the attention of authorities. Comparitech gathered elder financial abuse data this year, and they came up with a $184 billion annual loss estimate from nearly 8 million individual crimes.
Who Are the Perpetrators?
You may assume that scam artists and identity thieves are behind most of these cases of elder financial abuse. Without question, seniors are looked upon as vulnerable targets with good credit and considerable resources in many instances.
They may not be very technologically savvy, and this increases the likelihood of victimization, and loneliness is a factor. Many seniors long for attention and human contact, and some of them are willing to open up to strangers because they are lonely.
The cognitive impairment factor is part of the equation as well. Over 30 percent of the oldest old have contracted Alzheimer’s disease, and there are other causes of impairment. Even if a senior is functional, they may not be as sharp as they once were.
Professional criminals are part of the problem, but those cases represent a relatively small percentage of the total instances of elder financial abuse.
According to The National Center on Elder Abuse, 57.9 percent of perpetrators are family members. Almost 17 percent of the people that commit these crimes are friends, and 14.9 percent are paid home health aides.
What Can You Do?
From a broad perspective, attentiveness is key. You should be fully aware of the fact that elder financial abuse is quite common, and you should keep your eyes and ears open at all times.
This does not mean that you should be paranoid or unnecessarily suspicious, but at the same time, you should vigilant. While you are still handling all of your own affairs, you should be very diligent about confidentiality, and you should take internet security seriously.
There is a thin line between strict confidentiality and trusting in your close family members. This is a delicate subject, but every person in every family is not necessarily a beacon of integrity. You should try to evaluate those that are close to you objectively and act accordingly.
From the perspective of adult children, you and your siblings may want to open up a line of communication with your aging parents about these matters. They may decide that they would like to develop a family financial security plan in light of the threats.
There are also legal steps that can be taken to minimize the exposure to elder financial abuse, and we can explain them when you come in for a consultation.
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