At least one in five senior citizens will suffer financial elder abuse - this from a study by the Investor Protection Trust, an advocacy group for victims of scams. In what is described as "the crime of the 21st century," financial elder abuse is a growing phenomenon due to the increase in our population of senior citizens.
While the population of adults over 65 was 35 million in 2000, it is projected to double to 72 million by just 2030. This means that along with more senior citizens, there will be more unscrupulous scammers who prey upon the vulnerable in our communities. Financial exploitation of the elderly is already a pernicious phenomenon here and now, and it is often difficult to identify. According to the National Adult Protective Services Association, only one out of 44 these cases ever gets reported, a staggering figure showing how hard it is to track this type of crime.
Much of the hidden nature of elder abuse relates to its usual circumstances: 90% of abusers are family members. Other potential abusers have included caretakers, neighbors, friends and acquaintances, attorneys, bank employees, and even pastors, doctors and nurses. Oftentimes thefts and scams directed against the elderly are not only tough to trace, but they carry little chance of restitution.
One exception is when a licensed investment advisor or stockbroker defrauds a senior citizen - in such a matters, a victim can appeal to FINRA for help. Due to the costs of litigation, however, it is mostly six-figure losses that can be successfully prosecuted by attorneys with a background in investment fraud cases. Hackard Law out of California and Connecticut lawyer Joshua Kons both practice in this area.
Elder abuse continues to harm our senior citizens, our families and our communities, and the first step to stopping it is our own awareness and sense of justice.