As elder law attorneys, we keep a finger on the pulse of legal and financial matters that are impacting senior citizens at any given time. Some of them are simply inevitable eventualities of aging that are not necessarily anyone’s fault, but there is one looming threat that is truly heinous.
The very thought of elder financial abuse can make your blood boil. You have to wonder how someone could stoop this low, but unfortunately, it is a big problem in the United States today.
Very Significant Losses
This subject was not very well publicized until a study was conducted by the MetLife Mature Market Institute in 2009. They worked in partnership with Virginia Tech University and the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse.
At that time, they estimated that instances of elder abuse resulted in $2.9 billion of losses during that year. Since then, probes have been conducted by the United States Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and other entities that specifically focus on issues that affect elders.
One of these studies that was completed a few years ago placed the annual losses estimate at an eye-popping $36.5 billion.
Why would there be such extreme differences in the projections?
The vast majority of instances of elder financial abuse are never reported to the authorities, so it is impossible to produce truly accurate statistics. In the majority of cases, the abuses are not reported because the victims want to protect the perpetrator.
Sadly, family members, “friends,” caregivers, and paid professional fiduciaries are common culprits. Many elders do not want to get people in trouble or lose the care that they are receiving. There is also a fear of reprisal that could make them reluctant to speak out.
Crimes of Predation
In addition to the crimes of opportunity that are committed by people that have access, predatory entities often target senior citizens. Scam artists and fraudsters see elders as easy marks, and they know that many seniors have assets and good credit.
They take advantage of the loneliness that often sets in when people reach an advanced age. A lot of seniors are starved for attention and human interaction, and this vulnerability is exploited by the criminal element.
About 10% of all senior citizens have contracted Alzheimer’s disease, and the figure rises to 32% among individuals that are 85 years of age and older. This is one underlying cause of cognitive impairment, but there are others.
This is a factor that can be part of the equation, regardless of the nature of the abuse that is being perpetrated. Some seniors never know that they are being victimized, and this contributes to the number of cases that are never reported.
What Can You Do?
There are legal steps that you can take to mitigate your exposure to elder financial abuse. One of them is the empowerment of someone that you trust implicitly to act as your financial representative in the event of your incapacity.
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