Senior citizens are considered the most vulnerable group in America second only to children.  As our population ages, financial fraud targeting elders is expected to increase dramatically. Financial exploitation consists of several types of fraud that peek at different age ranges.

  • Investment scams peak around age 65 and aim to exploit senior citizens’ fear of future financial security with schemes involving advance fees, prime bank notes or pyramid schemes
  • Internet and telemarketing scams peak before age 65 and target seniors living alone. Both scams lure seniors to use their debit or credit card to purchase bogus products or services such as low-cost health care products or inexpensive vacations or offer free prizes.
  • Theft and fraud by family members peak well after age 65 when seniors are lonely, more dependent upon others for their care or facing health challenges. Many have saved-up a “nest egg,” own their home and maintain excellent credit. This makes seniors a likely target for struggling family members to take full advantage.

Financial abuse often goes undetected

Many agencies and professional stand ill-equipped to deal with elder fraud cases. Overall, there is a general lack of resources dedicated to its prevention and prosecution. Experts note that financial abuse often overlaps with other crimes against seniors, such as neglect or physical and sexual assault. However, a lack of coordination between agencies further compounds the problem. Proper training of a cross section of professionals could aid in the detection of financial fraud. However, without the benefit of collective expertise many seniors will remain vulnerable to exploitation.

Under-reporting of financial abuse

Surprisingly, a family member is most likely to commit elder financial abuse than a stranger or professional. This makes it difficult for seniors to report due to their sense of loyalty or dependency to family values. In some cases, the senior may be isolated making financial abuse difficult for others to report suspected abuse. Furthermore, a senior with cognitive impairments, such as memory loss or symptoms of confusion may be unaware of their financial affairs.

Due to lack of detection and reporting most victims of financial abuse do not seek legal recourse. The fact is litigation can help seniors recoup their losses. In Part II of this series we will discuss signs and symptoms of elder financial abuse. If you have any questions on this blog or need information on other personal injury queries, please call the Law offices of Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath located in West Palm Beach at 1-800 4-RIGHTS (1-800- 474-4487) We welcome your call and look forward to helping you.