Fighting Financial Fraud Among Older Adults

Fighting Financial Fraud Among Older Adults.

Financial abuse or exploitation is a widespread form of elder abuse that often occurs in tandem with neglect and other types of elder abuse. Financial abuse can be perpetrated by family members, caregivers, fiduciaries (such as court-appointed guardians and agents under a power of attorney), financial advisers, home repair contractors, scam artists, and others. Older adults can be attractive targets because they may have accumulated assets or equity in their homes, and often receive regular income such as Social Security or a pension. They may be especially vulnerable due to isolation, cognitive decline, physical disability, health problems or the recent loss of a loved one. For many older victims of financial exploitation, their losses are impossible to recover. Elder financial exploitation may also result in a loss of independence or material hardship, and may lead to depression or even suicide. Studies suggest that financial exploitation is the most common form of elder abuse and that only a small fraction of incidents are reported. Because elders often do not report their losses, quantifying the true magnitude of the problem and its monetary impact is challenging, if not impossible. Estimates of losses from elder financial abuse range from $2.9 billion to as high as $36.5 billion each year. Financial exploitation of older adults also has costs for society, resulting in economic losses for financial institutions, government agencies and programmes (such as Medicare and Medicaid), and taxpayers. These individual and societal costs of financial crimes against older adults are likely to become an even bigger problem as the U.S. population ages. By 2050, the population age 65 and over is projected to be 83.7 million, almost double the estimated 43.1 million in 2012. Credit: Office for Older Americans, August 2016.

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