Unfortunately, that growth has contributed to high rates of fraud and financial exploitation targeting the elderly in our state. The national rate of elder financial abuse is also high, with 1 in 20 cases of seniors falling victim to the crime, according to the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA). In 2019, the Department of Justice announced the largest crackdown on elder fraud in U.S. history, although it is still a widely under-reported crime. Only 1 in 44 cases ever come to light, according the NAPSA.
Financial loss from elderly fraud is in the billions, with the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reporting that $3 billion to $37 billion is stolen annually. Between 2013 and 2017, those over age 70 lost an average of $41,800 to financial exploitation. Losses climb even higher when the perpetrator is a friend or relative, though. Seniors scammed by strangers lost an average of $17,000, while those ripped off from someone they knew lost an average of $50,200.
The Ohio Attorney General's Office provides a quick reference guide for older adults on elder fraud and exploitation, which includes warning signs, common scams, how to avoid and report elder fraud and exploitation, and services and resources.
Senior citizens and their trusted advocates can also find assistance right in their community to avoid fraud and financial exploitation. Credit unions exist to improve their members' lives and offer guidance and resources to help members better protect and manage their finances. Most Ohioans are eligible to join and enjoy the benefits.
Tips to Protect Senior Citizens from Financial Exploitation
With 1 in 20 senior citizens in the U.S. reportedly being scammed out of their money, elder financial exploitation is something we should all be concerned about. It is important for older adults to have a trusted advocate in their later years. Whether you have witnessed this firsthand with loved ones, or you simply want to protect them before it's too late, read these tips from AARP and CNBC to keep the seniors in your life safe.
- Think ahead. Talk to your loved ones about their wishes for the future and help them plan for it by designating power of attorney and healthcare directives. Consider giving someone else authority in financial matters if their physical or mental health is declining.
- Stay connected. Keep in regular contact with your loved ones through frequent calls, texts, emails and visits.
- Build trust with sensitive financial matters. Extreme privacy when handling money issues is common for senior citizens, but it also sets them up for vulnerability in that area. If no one else has eyes on their financials, they could be getting scammed for months without catching it. Become the trusted financial advocate your loved one needs.
- Set up separate accounts. If your loved one is willing, set up several separate accounts so that they aren't completely wiped out should they fall victim to a scam.
- Set up direct deposit. Have checks deposited directly into their account so others don't have the opportunity to cash them.
- Track financial activity. Look into financial tracking tools like EverSafe, which will track financial activity and make the user aware of any suspicious withdrawals or spending.
- Know before you sign. Never sign any documents that you don't understand.
- Recognize red flags. Unfortunately, most cases of elder financial abuse are committed by someone the victim knows. Be aware of the sudden reappearance of any friend or family member who has been largely absent in your loved one's life or multiple requests to change account ownership.
- Trust your gut. If something feels off or things are not adding up with your loved one's finances, follow your intuition and get help.
- Report any wrongdoing. If you're convinced someone is scamming your loved one out of their money, contact your financial institution or Adult Protective Services immediately and file a report with your local police department.
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