Report: Financial Exploitation of Elderly Costs $2.9 Billion Annually

The results of a 2011 report, a collaboration of numerous agencies, show that financial exploitation of the elderly resulted in $2.9 billion in losses to victims in 2010. Moreover, the study, titled, “The MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse: Crimes of Occasion, Desperation, and Predation against America’s Elders,” further concluded that losses from financial abuse were up by 12 percent since 2008, which saw a $2.6 billion loss to victims. Among the findings, the study reported that 51 percent of elder financial abuse involved strangers; 34 percent of financial abuse involved family, friends and neighbors; 12 percent of the cases involved businesses, including nursing homes, and four percent involved cases of Medicare and Medicaid fraud.

While Medicaid and Medicare fraud cases only represented four percent of elder financial abuse, such cases had the greatest financial impact on the victims. The report concluded that these fraud cases resulted in $38,263,136 in losses to victims in 2010. Financial exploitation of the elderly that involved legitimate businesses, such as financial consulting firms and nursing homes, resulted in $6,219,496 in losses. Financial exploitation involving family, neighbors and friends resulted in losses amounting to $145,768. Finally, financial elder abuse involving strangers, such as home repair and telephone scams, resulted in losses totally $95,156.

money stack.jpgThe report, which labelled financial elder abuse the “Crime of the 21st Century,” categorized the crime according to three types: occasion, desperation and predation. Occasion crimes are moments of opportunity that allows a perpetrator to take advantage of a victim. An example of such a crime would be a caretaker who finds an elderly person’s wallet on the counter and take money. Desperation crimes, however, often involve family members or friends who are desperate for money and are willing to do anything to get it. Desperation crimes often involve family members with substance abuse problems who are reliant upon the elderly victim for housing and money. Finally, crimes of predation often involved a perpetrator who gained the trust of the elder over time, only to victimize the elder by taking his or her assets and money.

Women are twice as likely to be victims of elder financial abuse. Most victims are between the ages of 80 and 89, live alone, and suffer from some form of cognitive or physical impairment. The perpetrators of the crimes were male in 60 percent of the cases and were between the ages of 30 and 59. Most of the cases–51 percent–involved strangers such as unscrupulous telemarketers or repair contractors. In 34 percent of the cases, the perpetrator was a family member or friend. In some cases, family members believed they were entitled to take money for providing care to the elderly victim.

The report also revealed that financial exploitation of the elderly increased during the holidays. However, the cases reported were somewhat unusual in that they usually involved relatively small amounts of money but had severe, traumatic and emotional impacts on the elderly victims. For instance, in one case, an elderly man was brutally beaten to death during the holidays by a young woman and her friends who had befriended the elderly victim. Although the man was killed, the perpetrators only stole $500.

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