Older Americans have made immeasurable contributions to our nation: they have served in the military, helped create businesses and jobs, contributed to the growth of the United States economy, and raised families. After decades of hard work, they deserve our respect and appreciation.
Regrettably, our senior citizens are targeted by individuals who take advantage of their kindness, emotions, or cognitive impairment, and, without conscience, con them out of their entire life’s savings.
The statistics related to financial abuse of senior citizens is alarming:
A 2009 study by the National Association of Adult Protective Service Administrators (NAPSA) estimated the annual financial loss by victims of elder financial abuse in the U.S. to be at least $2.6 billion.
Just 6 years later, in 2015, a True Link Financial report estimated elder financial abuse exceeds $36.48 billion per year.
Persons over the age of 50 control the majority of the personal wealth in the United States, and the problem of financial exploitation will only increase as the “baby boomer” generation ages. By 2030, the number of Americans aged 65 and older will more than double to 71 million, roughly 20 percent of the U.S. population. In some states, fully a quarter of the population will be aged 65 and older5. This dramatic increase in the aging population can also lead to a large pool of potential victims for financial exploitation.
Researchers agree that elder fraud is dramatically under-reported, which is problematic for several reasons. First, the failure to report means that the assistance of police, adult protective services, family members and others is not mobilized to stop the abuse. Many elderly victims feel ashamed, or fear others will think they cannot care for themselves, which may trigger placement in a nursing home or long-term care facility. Many victims are not aware of support resources or do not know how to access them.
Many victims have close ties to the offender and may feel protective. They may want to stop the exploitation and recover their assets, but not want the offender punished. In addition, many victims believe they are at least partially to blame. The physical and mental impairments of aging make the elderly dependent on others for care which allows the abuser to isolate and control the victim both physically and emotionally.
Even if intervention is not necessary, the lack of reporting of these crimes makes it very difficult for punitive efforts to proceed because of a lack of information on the methods and perpetrators. This can embolden offenders to victimize others.
Financial abuse can be devastating to a senior citizen. Research has shown that elders who suffer from abuse, neglect or exploitation are three times more likely to die than those who have not suffered the same.
Too often, our elders endure the abuse in silence, unsure what has happened and afraid to report the individual responsible.
Society must address this growing problem – we must provide the necessary and applicable self-defense tools to our seniors and their families.
At the Stop Senior Thefts Project, we provide hands-on engagement and education for seniors, families, care providers, law enforcement, medical professionals, and financial institutions. Although there are other, very good organizations available online with informative content, they don’t always provide one-on-one services with onsite expertise. If you, your family, or agency need personalized assistance, we can provide customized engagement:
- Investigate what is happening
- Liaison with other agencies as necessary
- Provide education
- Develop and deploy individualized mitigation tools
For more information on the services we provide, please visit our How We Help page.
If you need assistance, would like to schedule an educational seminar, or would like to help our project, please contact us.
Additional resources for elder financial fraud can be found here.