One recent study found that $36 billion may be a low estimate for the final total on elder fraud. Unfortunately, scams targeting the elderly have been on the rise in recent years, be it attempting to get their private information to open credit cards in their name, or to encourage them to list strangers or relatively recent acquaintances in their estate planning documents.
Many people are aware of some of the most popular elder fraud scams, but criminals are getting better at hiding their work under the guise of seemingly legitimate plans.
One 2015 report, targeted $36.5 billion as the amount of money lost in financial abuse and scams, however, that problem is growing and three out of ten state securities regulators report that they have seen an increase of complaints and cases involving senior financial fraud and exploitation.
Only 3% of regulators reported a decline. Thieves are often following the money and the most common types of abuse include exploitation, account distribution, power of attorney, trustee or family member taking advantage, diminished capacity, fraud and excessive withdrawals.
Declining condition is not the only issue that affects these severe problems. This in fact has only been associated with 33% increase in scam susceptibility. Many of the victims of financial elder fraud today are not disabled or demented at all. One out of every 18 cognitively intact older people is subject to abuse fraud or financial scams, according to an American Journal of Public Health study. To protect your assets and ensure you have appropriate documents that protect you and your loved ones for many years to come, schedule a consultation with an experienced estate planning lawyer.
Financial exploitation is a serious and ongoing issue facing seniors nationwide, with losses estimated at around $2.9 billion nationally, and Massachusetts’ aging population is not exempt. According to a recent article, the Massachusetts Protective Services authorities were contacted around 21,000 times last year on suspicions of elder abuse, with, approximately, one third of cases involved some form of financial exploitation. This problem is expected to increase as vulnerable populations of senior with Alzheimer’s disease are projected to double, and perhaps triple, in number across the country by 2050.
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In response to the projected increase in seniors targeted for financial abuse, several initiatives have been introduced. The initiatives, focusing on understanding the scope and size of the issue in order to create effective strategies aimed at combatting the abuse, include a Massachusetts special state commission tasked with investigating and making recommendations to the Governor’s office to strengthen protective services for elders.
The Commission, lobbied for by Massachusetts Representative Paul Brodeur, is expected to issue a report in January 2014, which includes a proposal establishing teams of financial experts who can serve as volunteer assistance in unraveling financial scams for the often overwhelmed protective service staff.
Specialists and legal experts have also come together to form the Center for Law, Brain, And Behavior at Massachusetts General Hospital, which, among other things, is focused on better understanding the changes in the brain, which can leave seniors vulnerable to undue influence in financial decisions.
More Information on Reporting Elder Abuse
Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs: Protective Services