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Financial Abuse: Are You a Target?


Financial abuse of older Americans – defined as stealing, misusing or concealing money or assets from  someone who has a  physical or mental impairment — has increased 12% since 2008, according to the latest study from the MetLife Mature Market Institute.  What’s more, the annual financial loss by victims of elder financial abuse now totals at least $2.9 billion each year, the study found.

Older Americans are most likely to get abused by a male stranger, though family, friends and neighbors do their share of elder financial fraud as well, according to the study.  In fact, 51% of the instances of elder fraud were committed by strangers, and 34% of the cases by family, friends and neighbors.  In more than 60% of the cases, the perpetrators were men, usually between the ages of 30 and 50, the study found.

Certain types of fraud cause more damage than others.  Medicare and Medicaid fraud led to the largest average loss to victims, followed by fraud perpetuated by business and industry.  Fraud committed by strangers proved the least costly.

To be sure, this study isn’t the definitive answer on the incidence of elder financial fraud, as it bases the findings primarily on news articles and academic journals (see Methodology section on page 6).  And not all cases of elder abuse are reported and some may be reported on or written about erroneously.

Still, there’s no doubt that elder financial abuse is a problem.  Here are some of the risk factors for elder financial abuse, according to the study:

  • Gender: Women are twice as likely as men to be the victim of elder financial abuse.
  • Age: People between the ages of 80 and 89 are at the highest risk.
  • Living alone: Those who live alone are at increased risk.
  • Needing assistance: Those who require assistance from others with health care or home maintenance are at increased risk.
  • Timing: You are most likely to become a victim of elder financial abuse during the holidays.

Click here for suggestions on how to prevent elder financial abuse.


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    • Many people don’t realize that financial abuse of elders is a form of elder abuse. As a geriatric social worker, I have to say the findings are concerning. Families I’ve worked with are also surprised by the statistic that one third of perpetrators are family, friends, and neighbors of the elder. To learn more about elder abuse go to http://www.preventelderabuse.org/ . This website and other resources such as Care.com’s Senior Care Counseling Program (www.care.com/scc ) can help guide you and your family through all the complexities around senior caregiving like this one.


About Encore

  • Encore examines the changing nature of retirement, from new rules and guidelines for financial security to the shifting identities and priorities of today’s retirees. The blog also explores news that affects retirement, from the Wall Street Journal Digital Network and around the web. Lead bloggers are reporter Catey Hill and senior editor Jeremy Olshan. Other contributors include The Wall Street Journal’s retirement columnists Glenn Ruffenach and Anne Tergesen; the Director for the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, Alicia Munnell; and the Director of Research for Pinnacle Advisory Group, Michael Kitces, CFP.