June 2, 2011

USA: Elderly Americans lose $2.9 billion annually to financial abuse

YONKERS, New York / ConsumerReports.org / Money & Shopping / June 2, 2011

Financial abuse of older Americans has increased by 12 percent over the last three years, according to a study released Wednesday by the MetLife Mature Market Institute.

Elderly Americans are losing a reported $2.9 billion annually to financial abuse, up from $2.6 billion in 2008.

Crimes involving strangers accounted for 51 percent of cases, while 34 percent were committed by family members or friends. Twelve percent of crimes were from the business sector, and four percent were from Medicare or Medicaid fraud.

Among the results of the study:
* Women were targeted twice as often as men.
* The majority of individuals targeted were between the ages of 80 and 89, lived alone, and required some help with health care or home maintenance.
* Almost 60 percent of the perpetuators were male, with most between the ages of 30 and 59.
* Victims were particularly vulnerable during the holidays.

The study was produced in collaboration with the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the Center for Gerontology at Virginia Tech. It was published along with a guide, “Preventing Elder Financial Abuse for Older Adults.”

Consumer Reports recommends being on the alert for signs of financial abuse of the elderly, and taking preventative steps like ordering background checks on personal caregivers, shredding documents with identifying information, and checking credit reports for older relatives.

—Evan MacDonald

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