Elder financial abuse has become a costly epidemic in the United States, yet for the most part, it has remained in the shadows.
A few facts:
- Over $6 billion (some believe as high as $36 Billion) were lost to elder financial abuse from 2013-2017.
- 1 in 5 seniors say they’ve been a victim of some sort of financial abuse.
- Last year, 25,000 older adults reported being financially exploited- but it is suspected that the number of unreported cases is much higher. The problem will only get worse as our population ages.
Below are a few tips for preventing and responding to Elder Financial Abuse:
- Remember that those most vulnerable to financial exploitation are people who are living alone and people who suffer from some degree of cognitive impairment.
- Create a power of attorney or a plan for financial decision-making that gives a trusted other authority to make decisions for you, should you suffer from cognitive impairment in the future. Try to choose two people who you trust so that there can be two sets of eyes on your assets.
- Consider the fact that the most common perpetrators of elder financial exploitation are people with gambling, shopping, or drug addictions. Do not allow someone vulnerable to these problems to have access to your financial information.
- Never allow paid caregivers access to an elder’s checkbooks, credit cards, or financial accounts.
- Never ask paid caregivers to become the bill payer for the elder.
- Consider Eversafe or a program like it to monitor your own or your loved ones’ accounts.
- Immediately report concerns of financial exploitation to Adult Protective Services (APS) and to law enforcement.
- Always be suspicious when an elder has a new “best friend” and has drafted a new power of attorney or made changes to their will to benefit someone who is newly in their life.
Elder financial abuse is an issue that concerns all of us. Older adults at all income levels and from all backgrounds have experienced financial exploitation.
We have found that social isolation makes older adults more vulnerable to abuse. Having a strong social network of trusted friends and family can help protect vulnerable older adults from exploitation, and ensure that their golden years are lived with dignity. Together, we can end the injustice of elder abuse.