According to the National Adult Protective Services Association, or NAPSA, one in 20 seniors have fallen victim to elder financial abuse. While largely under-reported, cases of this type are still more self-disclosed than that of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse or neglect.
Financial loss from elderly fraud is in the billions, with the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reporting that $3 billion to $37 billion is stolen annually. In total between 2013 and 2017, those over age 70 lost an average of $41,800 to financial exploitation.
Losses climb even higher when the perpetrator is a friend or relative, though. Seniors scammed by strangers lost an average of $17,000, while those ripped off from someone, they knew lost an average of $50,200.
In 2019, the Department of Justice announced the largest crackdown on elder fraud in U.S. history, although it is still a widely under-reported crime. Only 1 in 44 cases ever come to light, according to NAPSA.
The best way to protect senior citizens from becoming victims of financial abuse is to stay educated and know the warning signs of this type of fraud. Senior citizens are often victims of financial fraud due to the vulnerability of old age. It is important for them to have a trusted advocate and even protector as their mental and physical health declines.
Tips to Protect Senior Citizens from Financial Exploitation
With one in 20 senior citizens in the U.S. reportedly being scammed out of their money, elder financial exploitation is something to be concerned about. Whether you have witnessed this firsthand with loved ones, or you simply want to protect them before it’s too late, read these tips from AARP and CNBC to keep the seniors in your life safe.
- Think ahead – While your loved one is mentally sharp, talk to them about their wishes for the future and help them make a plan by designating power of attorney and healthcare directives.
- Stay connected – Keep in regular contact with your loved ones through frequent calls, texts, emails and visits.
- Build trust with sensitive financial matters – If no one else has eyes on their financials, they could be getting scammed for months without catching it. Become the trusted financial advocate your loved one needs.
- Set up separate accounts – If your loved one is willing, set up several separate accounts so that they aren’t completely wiped out should they fall victim to a scam.
- Set up direct deposit – Have checks deposited directly into their account so others don’t have the opportunity to cash them.
- Track financial activity – Look into financial tracking tools like EverSafe, which will track financial activity and make the user aware of any suspicious withdrawals or spending.
- Know before you sign – Never sign any documents that you don’t understand.
- Recognize the red flags – Be aware of the sudden reappearance of any friend or family member who has been largely absent in your loved one’s life or multiple requests to change account ownership. Unfortunately, most cases of elder financial abuse are committed by someone the victim knows.
- Trust your gut – If something feels off or things are not adding up with your loved one’s finances, follow your intuition and get help.
- Report any wrongdoing – If you’re convinced someone is scamming your loved one out of their money, contact your financial institution or Adult Protection Services immediately and file a report with your local police department.
Financial Exploitation Statistics Among Senior Citizens in America
- Approximately 1 in 20 senior citizens have reported some form of elder financial abuse or exploitation, according to the National Adult Protective Services Association, or NAPSA
- 90% of financial elder abusers are family members or friends of the victim
- Seniors in the U.S. are scammed out of an average of $3 billion to $37 billion annually
- Elder financial abuse is self-reported at a higher rate than emotional, physical and sexual abuse or neglect.
- Between 2013 and 2017, seniors over age 70 lost an average of $41,800 to elder financial exploitation, according to the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- Seniors scammed by strangers lost an average of $17,000 while those ripped off by someone, they knew lost an average of $50,200, according to the Bureau
- In 2019, the Department of Justice announced the largest crackdown on elder fraud in U.S. history, although cases still go largely unreported, with only 1 in 44 cases ever coming to light (NAPSA)