As the population of older Americans continues to grow at an unprecedented rate, concern about the prevalence of elder abuse has increased as well. When most people hear the term “elder abuse” they typically assume it refers to physical or emotional abuse; however, there is another type of elder abuse that is actually even more common – financial abuse. Financial abuse of the elderly occurs at an astounding rate which is why it is so important to understand what it is, why seniors are frequently targeted, and what you can do to protect an elderly loved one.
Financial Abuse of the Elderly Facts and Figures
Accurate figures relating to any type of elder abuse are difficult to come by for several reasons, chief among those is the fact that elderly victims are often too embarrassed to report the abuse or they fear reprisals from the abuser for doing so. Nevertheless, the following facts and figures can help us understand the severity of the elder financial abuse problem:
- Experts believe more than one in 10 seniors will be the victim of some form of elder abuse
- 1 in 20 older adults indicating some form of perceived financial mistreatment occurring in the recent past
- Elder abuse is vastly under-reported; only one in 44 cases of financial abuse is ever reported
- Each year, there are over 5 million instances of financial exploitation with a senior victim
- For every instance of elder abuse reports, as many as 14 go unreported.
- 90 percent of the perpetrators are family members
- When a family member is the perpetrator, two-thirds of the time it is an adult child or spouse of an adult child.
How Is Financial Abuse of the Elderly Defined?
Financial abuse, or exploitation, of the elderly can take numerous forms and may occur under a wide variety of circumstances, including the following examples:
- Family members taking advantage of an elder person’s diminished capacity to either cajole, or outright steal, money or assets.
- A caregiver using an elder person’s money without permission or taking property from the individual’s home.
- A family member or caregiver getting an elderly individual to sign documents under false pretenses that transfer assets to the perpetrator, either now or after the elderly person’s death.
- Targeting an elderly individual for financial scams, over the telephone, through the mail, on the computer, or even in person.
Why Are the Elderly Victimized?
Financial abuse is not limited to the elderly. On the contrary, anyone can be the victim of financial exploitation; however, the elderly are victimized at a much higher rate than their younger counterparts. Some of the reasons why experts believe that to be the case include:
- People over 50 control over 70 percent of the nation’s wealth.
- Older individuals tend to be more trusting
- Seniors often do not know the value of their assets, particularly when the asset is real property that has appreciated considerably.
- Many elderly victims suffer from dementia and/or other physical or mental disabilities that make them easier targets.
- Older individuals are much less likely to be technologically savvy, making them easier to scam.
- Seniors tend to be predictable, making them easier to victimize.
What Can You Do to Protect an Elderly Loved One?
If you are concerned that a parent, or other elderly loved one, could end up as a victim of elder financial abuse, there are several important steps you can take now to dramatically reduce that possibility, including:
- Talk to your parent/loved one. As mentioned above, the fact that the elderly tend to be more trusting makes them attractive victims. In addition, they often don’t understand current technology, making it easier to scam them. Sit down with your loved one and have a very frank discussion about the issue. Impress upon them that it is always better to be safe than sorry. If someone or something makes them uncomfortable they need to speak up – to you at the very least.
- Impress upon your loved one the need to beware of social media. – most seniors only have a rudimentary understanding of how most social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, operate. The privacy settings, in particular, remain a mystery to the older generation. Predators are aware of this and use it to their advantage. You would be surprised at the amount of personal information a scam artists can gather just by following a victim on social media. That information is then used to run a scam. The easiest way to avoid this scam is to be vigilant about keeping privacy settings private. Doing so prevents the public from being able to see personal information.
- Screen everyone allowed in your loved one’s home. This applies to everyone who has access to your loved one’s home and property. help is needed around the house, conduct a background check on anyone allowed in the home. Do not assume that an agency has conducted a proper background check. Sadly, this even applies to in-laws and other people recommended by family members given that the vast majority of the perpetrators are family members or spouses of family members.
Contact a Grand Forks Elder Law Attorney
Please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns regarding financial abuse of the elderly, or any other elder law issue, contact the Grand Forks elder law attorneys at German Law Group by calling 701-738-0060 to schedule an appointment.