Elder Financial Abuse: A $2.6 Billion Crime
Elder financial abuse is one crime that just keeps getting bigger. Every year, financial abuse costs older Americans more than $2.6 billion – and often the perpetrators are those closest to the victims: family members and caregivers.
According to a recent MetLife Mature Market Institute report, up to 1 million elderly Americans may be targeted yearly, with related costs such as health care, social services, investigations, legal fees, prosecution, lost income and assets reaching tens of millions of dollars annually.
The study also says that for each reported abuse case, an estimated four or more cases go unreported. The economic downturn may increase vulnerability. Family members and caregivers are the culprits in 55% of cases, according to the report, although financial losses are higher with investment fraud scams.
“Elder financial abuse has been called the ‘crime of the 21st century,’” said Sandra Timmermann, Ed.D., director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute. “With the present state of the economy, older Americans are at a greater risk than ever of having their financial security threatened. And, for every dollar lost to theft and abuse, there are still more related costs associated with stress and health care and the intervention of social service, investigative and legal entities.”
Elder financial abuse takes many forms, including fraud (coupon, telemarketing, mail); repair and contracting scams; “sweetheart scams;” false/fraudulent advice from loan officers, stock brokers, insurance salespersons, accountants and bank officials; undue influence; abuse of powers of attorney and guardianship; identity theft; Internet “phishing;” failure to fulfill contracted health care services; and Medicare and Medicaid fraud.