Seniors get exploited–a lot–and most often by family members
Five percent or more of seniors in the United States are financially exploited (it’s estimated that only one in 44 victims report the crime), most often at the hands of family members. Financial exploitation is the most frequent form of elder abuse and yet it mostly escapes the examination it deserves. That’s the findings from a study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
About 60 percent of financial abuse occurs at the hands of immediate family members, usually adult children. Add in so-called friends and neighbors for almost 20 percent more and you get a picture of vulnerability. Most often the people at the greatest risk are those with the greatest to lose—the poor.
- Financial abuse includes:
- Taking money or property
- Forging a signature
- Forcing a signature
- Using property without permission
- Scams of all sorts
- And fraud.
Sometimes the abusers feel they have the right to do so because they’ll “inherit it anyway,” because they have a negative relationship with the abused and feel entitled or want to prevent siblings or other family members from inheriting.
In the United States, over 70 percent of the nation’s wealth is controlled by people over the age of 50. Many of those people do not recognize the value of their assets (especially their home or other real property). In addition, many older people have been left behind when it comes to the tech world, leaving them vulnerable to people looking to take advantage of their lack of understanding about computers and other electronics.
If you think a loved one has been financially exploited, look for patterns of unpaid bills, new “friends,” legal documents your loved one doesn’t understand, missing property, unusual financial activity and the absence of documentation.
Financial exploitation hurts everyone regardless of whether you are the initial victim. About 10 percent of victims will eventually be forced to resort to Medicaid as a result of being exploited.
For more information about this crime, go to http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/. To report fraud, go to http://www.stopfraud.gov/protect-yourself.html.