Elder financial exploitation has been called “the crime of the 21st century.” Studies indicate that it’s the most widespread form of elder abuse, costing older American’s as much as $36 billion each year. And as the number of older American’s increases, it’s likely that the scope of these crimes will increase.
According to a recently released study by the New York State Office of Children & Family Services (OFCS); “New York State Cost of Financial Exploitation” the total monetary value of assets taken from seniors in the state of New York could be as high as $1.5 billion annually. The study states that research has repeatedly shown that incidents of financial exploitation frequently go unreported to Adult Protective Services and other authorities. The study undertook a series of projection exercises to estimate the total magnitude of victim losses might be if information on losses were captured for both reported and unreported cases. Previous research indicates that for every one reported case of financial exploitation; as many as 44 cases went unreported.
According to the National Adult Protective Services Association (aps), the number and complexity of reports involving financial abuse of vulnerable and older adults has grown significantly over the past decade. Recent research has found that elder financial exploitation is widespread, expensive and even deadly.
Some of the findings of the APS program reports are:
- One in nine seniors reported being abused, neglected or exploited in the past twelve months; the rate of financial exploitation is extremely high, with 1 in 20 older adults indicating some form of perceived financial mistreatment occurring in the recent past
- Elder abuse is vastly under-reported; only one in 44 cases of financial abuse is ever reported.
- Abused seniors are three times more likely to die and elder abuse victims are four times more likely to go into a nursing home.
- Cognitive impairment and the need for help with activities of daily living make victims more vulnerable to financial abuse.
How to protect yourself from becoming a victim of financial exploitation:
- Don’t sign blank checks allowing another person to fill in the amount.
- Don’t leave money or valuables in plain view.
- Be aware of scams (either by phone or through the mail). If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Don’t give strangers access to your bank accounts.
- Check your financial statements frequently and carefully for unauthorized withdrawals.
- Don’t sign any document you have not completely read or fully understand.
- Don’t be pressured by family members, friends, caregivers, or anyone to do anything you don’t want to do.
- Cashing checks without authorization/permission.
- Forging a person’s signature.
- Misusing or stealing a person’s money or possessions.
- Coercing or deceiving a person into signing documents such as a contract or will.
- The improper use of conservatorship, guardianship, or power of attorney.
Signs and symptoms include:
- Sudden changes in bank account or banking practice.
- Unexplained withdrawal of a lot of money by a person accompanying the victim.
- Adding additional names on a bank signature card.
- Unapproved withdrawal of funds using an ATM card.
- Sudden changes in a will or other financial documents.
- Unexplained missing funds or valuables.
- Providing substandard care.
- Unpaid bills despite having enough money.
- Forged signature for financial transactions or for the titles of property.
- Sudden appearance of previously uninvolved relatives claiming their rights to a person’s affairs and possessions.
- Unexplained sudden transfer of assets.
- Providing unnecessary services.
- A complaint of financial exploitation.
If you suspect someone you know is the victim of elder financial exploitation, contact the Adult Protective services in your state, law enforcement, or your state’s Long-term Care Ombudsman program.