As our population ages, a disturbing trend is evolving: elder financial abuse continues to grow.
The estimated annual financial loss by victims of elder financial abuse is over $2.9 billion, a 12 percent increase from the $2.6 billion estimated in 2008, according to the MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse.
Elder financial abuse occurs when someone commits unauthorized use of an elderly person's funds or property. This exploitation can be done by an outside scam artist through phony prizes, charities or investment fraud. Abuse can also come from a caregiver, friend or family member that steals cash or household goods, engages in identity theft, or misuses checks, credit cards or other financial accounts.
The MetLife study shows that strangers were involved in 51 percent of the fraud cases, while family members, neighbors and friends took part in 34 percent of the crimes. Women are nearly twice as likely to be victims of elder financial abuse as men, and most victims are between the ages of 80 and 89. They live alone but need some help with either health care or home maintenance.
This problem will only intensify as the elderly population increases. According to the Administration on Aging, persons 65 years or older numbered 39.6 million in 2009, about one in every eight Americans. By 2030, that number is projected to grow to 72.1 million older persons.
Signs of Financial Abuse
If you are a senior citizen or help care for a senior citizen, it is important to know the signs of elder financial abuse and how to prevent it:
Preventing Elder Abuse
Here are some tips on how to prevent financial abuse of the elderly:
Reporting Elder Abuse
Each state has a toll-free elder abuse helpline for reports of elder abuse. The National Center for Elder Abuse provides a directory of state helplines and elder abuse resources.
Bill Hardekopf is CEO of LowCards.com, a site that simplifies the confusion of shopping for credit cards. It is a free, independent website that helps consumers easily compare credit cards in a variety of categories such as lowest rates, rewards, rebates, balance transfers and lowest introductory rates.
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