Crime of 21st Century
Financial exploitation of older adults is becoming the crime of the 21st century. The growing population of aging boomers along with exponential growth in technology is fueling this billion dollar industry. Since the beginning of 2011, financial fraud has exceeded $20 billion dollars, affecting many thousands of victims – and these statistics only reflect reported crimes. The elderly represent a disproportionate percentage of the fraud victims. During the next 15 years, 20% of the American population will be over 65 years old. As the aging population accelerates, so will financial exploitation of the elderly.
Why are the elderly targeted?
Older adults are targeted because many have financial reserves (pension, house, savings) and may be vulnerable in many key areas: dementia, loneliness, maintaining independence, and lacking technological sophistication. For example, old age dementia may render the victim unable to handle simple financial matters, let alone being able to comprehend complicated investment vehicles. In telemarketing scams, lonely elders are preyed on to buy products they don’t need in exchange for talking to “someone nice” on the other end. Many times older victims will not report the crime out fear they will appear as being incompetent, which may result in being placed in an assisted living facility. According the Attorney General Eric Holder, 3 out of 4 (75%) of financial fraud victims over 55 years old will not report the crime.
Types of scams
Financial exploitation can take many forms. The following are more commonly perpetrated against the elderly:
- Healthcare and insurance fraud
- Counterfeit prescription drugs
- Funeral and cemetery scams
- Fraudulent anti-aging products
- Telemarketing, internet fraud
- Investment scams
- Reverse mortgage scams
- Sweepstakes and lottery scams
- The grandparent scam
Who are the perpetrators?
Surprisingly, financial exploitation of the elderly is not only perpetrated by scam artists, but more frequently by family members. According the Metlife’s report “Broken Trust: Elders, Family, and Finances,” 55% of fiscal exploitation is committed by someone the victim knows: family member, caregiver, friend, or neighbor. Economic instability has created financial hardships, and for some, a perfect justification for taking money from older family or friends.
My goal is to fight elder fraud. These predatory practices have to stop. Currently, financial exploitation of the elderly is “underreported, underrecognized, and underprosectuted.” This blog is to dialogue with others in an effort to create innovative solutions to stop elder fraud before it begins. This is a social issue that needs to be addressed now!