How Seniors Get Taken for All They’ve Got

Money and Finance, Senior Living Leave a comment , , , ,

Think you’re too smart to fall for a scam? A new study says 1 in 18 “cognitively intact” older adults is taken in by financial fraud or abuse in any given year.

Declining cognition is responsible for a 33 percent increase in susceptibility to a scam, but healthy adults are often victims, says Patricia Boyle, a professor of behavioral sciences at Rush University of Medicine.

“Many of the victims of financial fraud are not demented or disabled,” Boyle says. “Yet for some reason they’re still vulnerable—and we’re not sure why that is.”

Research studies, such as one at Texas Tech University, indicate that fluid intelligence, the ability to think logically and process new information, decreases with age. This cognitive decline occurs at the rate of about 2 percent per year after age 55. Someone who’s 95, for example, would have half the capacity they did at the age of 65. Women over the age of 80 are scammers’ most common prey.

Assets for the Taking

Baby Boomers have trillions of dollars in personal assets just waiting to be stolen. The greedy, the desperate and the drug-addicted, among others, work to move money out of the older adult’s account and into their own.

As America’s population ages and the wealthy get richer, thieves take an estimated $37 billion from seniors annually. They’re following the money trail, says North American Securities Administrators Association President Mike Rothman.

In fact, financial abuse of seniors may be grossly underreported. Many victims are too embarrassed, confused or fearful to tell authorities about the crime. A recent study reported by Consumers Digest estimates that government officials only find out about 1 in 25 cases. And a 2016 study by New York State’s Office of Children and Family Services reports that losses from elder fraud in New York alone could top $1.5 billion if they were all on the books.

It’s Often All in the Family

Seniors may be aware of scams that come from outside the family, but what happens when it’s a relative who’s dipping into assets? Many families won’t intervene when it’s a relative, sometimes because they don’t want to believe it. The family member who’s stealing may threaten the older adult, especially if she’s in any way dependent on him for care or has a cognitive disability.

Attorney Carolyn Rosenblatt says that most financial elder abusers are family members. But if another family member finds out, they often won’t report it because they “don’t want to make trouble” for their relative. However, any abuse should be reported.

If a situation is serious, threatening or dangerous, call 911 or your local police to intervene. Otherwise, most states allow you to make a report of abuse confidentially. The first step is to call the Elder Abuse Hotline or find state-specific information at 800-677-1116.

No matter who is initiating elder financial abuse, the only way to stop it is to report it.

Source:  CSA Blog, Aug20, 2018

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at

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