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Study: The Impact of Financial Fraud on the Elderly

Older Americans are perhaps the most vulnerable targets of investment fraud, losing more than $3 billion every year to various forms of financial abuse and fraud.

According to a study released earlier this summer by MetLife Mature Market Institute, crimes against the elderly have increased 12% increase from 2006 to today. The percentage may be much higher, however, because many older Americans who are victims of financial fraud or abuse never report the crimes to authorities. Research shows that for every 1 case reported, four to five go unreported.

Perpetrators of elder financial fraud include family members, non-family caregivers, businesses, and strangers. Findings from MetLife’s study, Elder Financial Abuse: Crimes of Occasion, Desperation, and Predation Against America’s Elders, show that crimes involving strangers as the perpetrators of elder financial fraud made up more than half (51%) of reported cases of elder financial abuse, followed by crimes involving family, friends and neighbors as perpetrators (34%). Exploitation from the business sector accounted for 12% of reported cases. Medicare and Medicaid fraud accounts for 4% of reported cases. Robberies and crimes classified as “scams perpetrated by strangers” increased from 9% to 28% from 2008 to 2010.

In addition, the MetLife study found that:

•Women are nearly twice as likely to be victims of elder financial abuse as men.

• Most victims are between the ages of 80 and 89, live alone and require some help with either health care or home maintenance.

• Nearly 60% of perpetrators are males, mostly between ages 30 and 59.

• Victims are particularly vulnerable during the holidays when overall dollar losses due to family and friends were higher than any other category.

The types of elder financial fraud vary from caregivers stealing money from an elder person to business elder fraud, which includes life and health insurance misrepresentation, predatory lending, bogus investment scams, securities fraud, so-called Internet lotteries and email scams.

If you or someone you know has become a victim of financial fraud, do not hesitate to inform law enforcement.

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