Each year, con artists use a variety of investment schemes to scam millions of senior citizens out of approximately $2.6 billion. Each year, those same seniors lose millions more of their life savings through elder financial abuse and fraud. In fact, a recent study published by MetLife Mature Market Institute estimates that senior citizens suffer financial losses from financial crimes and exploitation of more than $2.9 billion dollars annually.
According to the study, that’s approximately 12% more than in 2008, yet actual annual losses may be far greater than estimated. New research shows that the actual instances of elder financial abuse are likely “far higher than previously reported,” perhaps as high as four unreported cases for every single case that gets reported. That means annual losses could be as high as $14.5 billion.
Regardless of whether perpetrators of elder financial abuse and fraud are strangers, family members, friends, neighbors, or businesses, the study showed they all used deceit, threats, and emotional manipulation to achieve their goals. Perpetrators who were strangers, however, often targeted victims with visible vulnerabilities (e.g., limited mobility, displays of confusion, or living alone). They also perpetrated their crimes year round. In contrast, family, friends, and neighbors tended to exploit elders the most during the holidays.
Other key facts:
“In almost all of the cases there existed a combination of tenuous, valued independence and observable vulnerability that merged in the lives of victims to optimize opportunities for abuse by every type of perpetrator — from the closest family members to professional criminals.” – The MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse: Crimes of Occasion, Desperation, and Predation Against America’s Elder, page 3
The federal government and state legislatures are working to protect seniors and their retirement savings through a variety of new legislation, task forces, and educational resources. Unfortunately, their combined efforts have not yet been enough to curb abuse, which means investors and elders must protect themselves. To learn how you can prevent elder abuse and financial fraud, click here.