Elder Financial Abuse Costs $2.6 Billion Annually
Posted by PKSD Law Firm on May 20, 2009 in Nursing Homes and Elder Rights
A recent report published by MetLife Mature Market Institute reveals that elder financial abuse costs older Americans more than $2.6 billion per year and is often committed by family members and caregivers.
The report points out that up to one million older Americans are targeted each year, totaling tens of millions of dollars annually. Those costs include health care, social services, investigations, legal fees, prosecution, lost income, and assets.
The study also found that for every case reported, there are approximately four or more that go unreported. Family members and caregivers are found to be responsible in 55% of cases.
According to the National Adult Protective Services Association, the typical victim of elder financial abuse is between ages 70 and 89, white, female, frail, and cognitively impaired.
As mentioned earlier, family members and caregivers are found to be responsible in 55% of cases. Experts believe that family members who exploit their elders are financially dependent and their actions may be influenced by other problems such as drug and alcohol abuse. In other cases, family members feel a sense of entitlement and believe that they have a right to the money and material goods their parents or older relatives have accumulated.
Elder financial abuse takes many forms, including fraud (coupon, telemarketing, mail); repair and contracting scams, the so-called sweetheart scams; false/fraudulent advice from loan officers, stock brokers, insurance salespersons, and bank officials; undue influence; illegal viatical settlements; abuse of powers of attorney and guardianship; identity theft; Internet phishing; failure to fulfill contracted health care services; and Medicare and Medicaid fraud.
Elder financial abuse can be prevented by the following: 1) education about one's rights and about the various types of consumer fraud and scams; 2) financial conservatorship and/or power of attorney for those who are vulnerable; 3) assignment of responsibility to a trusted outside person, if children are a concern; 4) additional media attention for this issue; 5) training financial professionals to properly assist older customers; 6) Assistance from social services, medical/nursing personnel, government agencies; 7) reporting suspected cases of financial abuse to local authorities.