A 2009 study, titled “Broken Trust: Elders, Family, and Finances” (issued by MetLife Mature Market Institute, the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, and the Center for Gerontology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University), found that the annual financial losses experienced by victims of financial elder abuse is estimated to be a minimum of $2.6 billion dollars. Furthermore, the perpetrators of financial elder abuse are more likely to be people who are in a position of trust with the elder, including friends, family and service providers.
The study defines elder financial abuse as “the unauthorized use or illegal taking of funds or property of people aged 60 and older.” The relationship between victim and perpetrator can be long-term, such as the case of a family friend or neighbor, or it can be short-term, such as through a scam phone call or e-mail. Financial elder abuse reportedly accounts for between 30 percent and 50 percent of all elder abuse. Although it covers a wide range of victim characteristics, the elder financial abuse victim is more likely to be female, over the age of 70 and frail.
Financial elder abuse, sometimes referred to as financial exploitation or misappropriation of funds, is also often associated with other forms of abuse or neglect of the senior, the report notes. Furthermore, for every case of elder financial abuse that is reported, up to four or five cases may not be reported.
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Because the victim often feels foolish for having been victimized, or because the victim does not want to punish someone he or she knows for the abuse, financial elder abuse often goes unreported. Unfortunately, many seniors lose a lot of their money - if not their entire life savings - in financial elder abuse scams.