Elder financial fraud is a growing problem in the United States as scammers target the increasing number of Americans heading into retirement:
- About 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day
- By 2030, all Baby Boomers will be age 65 or older
- The US currently has close to $15-trillion in self-directed retirement accounts
- The net worth of a typical retiree is $264,750, according to Forbes
Statistics & The Current State of Elderly Financial Abuse
About 20% of elderly Americans victims of financial exploitation, according to the AARP Public Policy Institute. On average, older Americans are losing about $120,000 a piece which totals about $3-billion annually.
But only 1 of every 44 financial abuse cases get reported according to The National Adult Protective Services Association. The National Council on Aging estimates that the total estimated losses from elder financial abuse could be as high as $35.5 billion a year.
Why Are the Elderly Targeted?
The elderly are identified as targets for financial fraud and scams because:
- They are more vulnerable than younger people because they are more likely to suffer from problems with memory and judgment.
- They typically have more money than younger people. According to Forbes, the typical 80-year-old household has twice the net worth of the typical 50-year-old household.
- They are often lonely and more likely to answer a phone call, a favorite entry point of financial scammers.
- They often have predictable patterns, such as when they receive and cash their social security checks.
- They could be unfamiliar with the latest technology for managing their finances.
Signs of Elder Financial Exploitation
If you suspect that an elderly friend or loved one could be the victim of elder financial abuse, look for signs, such as:
- Bank statements or canceled checks going to an unfamiliar address
- Large checks being made out to cash or written as “gifts” or “loans” to a person unknown by the family.
- Unexplained large transfers between different accounts
- Unexplained withdrawals, such as from an ATM that cannot be accessed by your friend or loved one
- Large withdrawal from an account that was previously inactive
- Missing property or belongings
- Suspicious signatures or forgeries on checks or legal documents
- Large numbers of unpaid bills
- New financial arrangements with a lack of documentation
What Are the Laws Protecting the Elderly from Financial Abuse?
There have been a number of laws enacted to address elderly financial abuse, including:
- The Senior Safe Act – allows financial institutions such as banks, credit unions, brokers, and investment to report suspected fraud without fear of being sued.
- The Elder Justice Act – for greater coordination among federal and state responses to elder abuse dealing with elder abuse cases and expansion of reporting requirements and civil penalties.
- The Elder Abuse Victims Act – Established an Office of Elder Justice within the Department of Justice (DOJ) to support state and local governments to investigate, prosecute, prevent, and mitigate the impact of elder abuse.
- The Older Americans Act – funds critical services for keeping older adults healthy and independent
Reporting Elder Financial Abuse
If you suspect elder financial abuse, there are a number of options for reporting it including:
- National Elder Fraud Hotline: 833-FRAUD-11 (833-372-8311) – provides access to experienced case managers to provide support and services to seniors who may be victims of financial fraud.
- File a police report at your local police station
- Local Adult Protective Services
- The state Attorney General’s office.
- Advocacy organizations – such as The National Center on Elder Abuse
Elder financial abuse can take the feeling of safety and financial security away from people in their golden years. As the US population ages and the assets of this growing demographic continue to be targeted, elder financial exploitation will continue to be an increasing problem.
If you believe your elderly family member is a victim of financial abuse, consider expert legal representation. The attorneys at Dansky | Katz | Ringold are deeply experienced with elder abuse and ready help. Contact our team to schedule a free consultation and ask questions about your situation.