Elder law attorneys keep a finger on the pulse of the matters that are of interest senior citizens, and elder financial abuse is one of the major issues. The MetLife study of Elder Financial Abuse found that a minimum of $2.9 billion is lost annually due to instances of financial abuse of the elderly.
This study was conducted in 2011, and this figure is often used within the geriatric community, but some more recent research has been done by Comparitech. They came up with an estimate of 7.68 million fraud cases in 2020 with total losses of about $148 billion.
One of the reasons why the numbers are so different is because of the nature of the crime. The vast majority of cases go unreported, and in fact, the New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study from 2011 found that one out of every 24 cases are actually reported.
Reasons for the Underreporting
The sad part about elder financial abuse is the fact that the majority of the crimes are committed by people that the victim knows. Family members will take advantage of their access, caregivers sometimes commit acts of financial abuse, and professionals can be perpetrators.
When it comes to caregivers and family members, many of the victims do not want to report the abuse because they need the help that is being provided. And of course, there are those that do not want to get family members in trouble.
There is an embarrassment factor that will cause some cases to go unreported, and there are seniors that simply do not know that they are being abused.
Why Are Seniors Targeted?
In addition to the crimes of opportunity that are perpetrated by people that are not professional criminals, there are other culprits. Senior citizens generally have good credit, and many of them have significant savings, so they are perceived by scam artists as vulnerable targets with full pockets.
When an owner has lost their spouse and many of their friends and extended family members, loneliness can set in, they may not have a lot of contact with others. They are lonely, and as a result, they are more likely to speak to strangers that have nefarious intentions.
Of course, there is also the matter of cognitive impairment. Over 30 percent of people that are 85 years of age and older have Alzheimer’s disease, and it strikes 13 percent of all seniors. This is not the only cause of impairment, so this is another contributing factor.
What Can You Do?
If you are getting up there in years, you have to be very aware of the fact that there are financial abuses out there. You don’t want to get paranoid, but you should certainly keep your eyes open and stay alert, and avoid the temptation to interact with people you don’t know.
Internet safety is another important element. You should use quality internet security software, and you should use complicated passwords. Plus, it is important to use different passwords for every site that you use that has sensitive information.
People typically keep their financial affairs confidential, and they don’t even discuss them in detail with their children. This is understandable, but at some point, this approach may not be the correct one.
If you are an adult child, you may want to get together with your siblings and suggest a family meeting with your parents so you can start to discuss these matters. Assuming your parents are amenable, a family financial safety plan can be implemented.
When you are having the discussion, you should broach the subject of incapacity among elders, as sensitive as it may be. A durable power of attorney can be executed to give someone the ability to make decisions on behalf of an incapacitated adult.
Schedule a Consultation Today!
From a legal perspective, we can explain some steps that you can take to mitigate your exposure to elder financial abuse. If you are ready to get started, you can schedule a consultation at our Memphis, TN elder care planning office if you call us at 901-763-2500 or 866-997-6325.
There is also a contact form on this site that you can use to send us a message electronically.