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Elder financial abuse a national epidemic
WASHINGTON, D.C. (6/26/12)--Frontline professionals who deal with financial exploitation of older Americans agree: The problem of financial swindles targeting senior citizens is a very real problem and is getting worse (Investor Protection Trust June 13).

An online survey was conducted in early June of 762 financial planners, securities regulators, adult protective services workers, medical professionals, law enforcement officials, and others who deal with older Americans. Effectively all (99%) respondents are concerned, saying that older Americans are very (75%) or somewhat (24%) vulnerable to financial swindles ( June 13).

Another Investor Protection Trust survey revealed that one of five Americans older than age 65 had been the victim of a swindle in 2010. MetLife calculated that Americans age 60 and older were cheated out of at least $2.9 billion in 2010, a 12% increase from 2008 (The Washington Post June 14).

Who are the perpetrators? Research indicates that most often they are family members or caregivers, with elderly women more likely to be targeted than men. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau plans to release a guide explaining financial responsibilities to family members and caregivers.

If you provide care for an older individual, watch for these red flags that financial exploitation or abuse may be going on:

  • Large, unexplained withdrawals from accounts, or transfers between accounts that the older person cannot explain;
  • Suspicious signatures on checks or other documents;
  • Lifestyle not consistent with income or assets, or significant changes in spending patterns;
  • Notices to disconnect utilities;
  • Anxiety about personal finances;
  • Missed appointments or unpaid bills;
  • Abrupt changes to a will or power of attorney; and
  • Unusual transfer of assets to others.
If you suspect financial exploitation, contact the local Adult Protective Services office immediately.

For more information, read "Elders Are Easy Targets for Scams" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.
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