Elder financial exploitation, which has been referred to as a crime of the 21st century, is a growing form of abuse of seniors and adults with disabilities. Read on to learn how to avoid elder financial abuse.

One in 9 seniors reported being abused, neglected or exploited in the past 12 months, according to the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA), with 1 in 20 older adults indicating some form of perceived financial mistreatment.

The National Council of Aging estimates losses from elder financial abuse to be anywhere between $2.9 billion and $35.5 billion a year. Cases go vastly unreported, with NAPSA saying that only one in 44 cases is reported. Victims of elder financial abuse often are reluctant to report the crime because of shame or fear.

While most reports to NAPSA involve perpetrators who are related to or in a trusting relationship with the victim, scams and frauds by strangers are also very common. Financial exploitation takes many forms.

There are ways to protect yourself or your loved ones by being aware of how scams happen and how they can be avoided. Goodwill NCW’s Financial and Debt Solutions Services offers free seminars and webinars about the topic and recently presented to Assisi Homes of Neenah. Find out more by calling 920-968-6346 or emailing [email protected].

What puts seniors at risk can be as simple as:

  • They have regular income or assets.
  • They are trusting and polite.
  • They might feel socially isolated and want someone to talk with.

The number and complexity of reports involving financial abuse of the vulnerable continues to grow. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internet Crime Complaint Center, the number of reports from seniors increased by 38% from 2019 to 2020. However, you don’t have to be elderly to get scammed. Here are some examples:

  • Identity theft: Someone steals personal information.
  • Charity fraud: Someone from a false charity asks for a donation.
  • Health care scams: An ad on TV tells viewers about a new law that requires getting an updated health care card.
  • Tech support scam: Computer users receive a virus warning with a number to call to fix the issue. They are then asked to share their password.
  • Prize-winning scams: A card tells recipients that they’ve won a trip, prize, lottery or sweepstakes and need to pay a fee or taxes first.
  • Grandchildren scams: Caller pretends to be the recipient’s grandchild and asks for money for bail or some other trouble.
  • IRS imposter scam: Someone pretending to be from the IRS calls and says back taxes need to be paid or the recipient will be sued, arrested or deported.
  • Online dating scams: A budding relationship moves from the dating website to emails and phone calls. He says he lives far away but wants to visit and needs money for a plane ticket.

Here are tips from the National Council on Aging on how to avoid elder financial abuse or being scammed:

  • Be aware that you are at risk.
  • Sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry at donotcall.gov.
  • Don’t give credit card, banking, Social Security, Medicare or other personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call.
  • Ask the caller to send you something in writing

In most instances of suspected elder abuse, including financial exploitation, contact Adult Protective Services. Find our local office at www.eldercare.acl.gov or by calling 800-677-1116.

About the author: Teri Horner is the Leader of Counseling Services with Goodwill NCW’s Financial and Debt Solutions Services. Financial and Debt Solutions Services is available for seminars and webinars on this topic. Contact Teri at 920-968-6346 or [email protected].