New Elder Abuse Study

A recently released updated study has examined the depths of financial exploitation against the elderly in the United States. Titled “Crimes of Occasion, Desperation, and Predation Against America’s Elders,” the study is an expanded follow-up to a groundbreaking study in 2009 named “Broken Trust: Elders, Family, and Finances.” This new study widens the scope of the previous study to match the growing problem of financial abuse against the elderly.

Key Findings:

  • The annual financial loss by victims of elder financial abuse is estimated to be at least $2.9 billion dollars, a 12% increase from the $2.6 billion estimated in 2008.
  • Instances of fraud perpetrated by strangers comprised 51% of the articles. Reports of elder financial abuse by family, friends, and neighbors came in second, with 34% of the news articles followed by reports of exploitation within the business sector (12%) and Medicare and Medicaid fraud (4%).
  • Medicare and Medicaid fraud resulted in the highest average loss to victims ($38,263,136) followed by fraud by business and industry ($6,219,496), family, friends, and neighbors ($145,768), and fraud by strangers ($95,156).
  • Women were nearly twice as likely to be victims of elder financial abuse as men. Most victims were between the ages of 80 and 89, lived alone, and required some level of help with either health care or home maintenance. In almost all of the cases, there existed a combination of tenuous, valued independence and observable vulnerability that merged in the lives of victims to optimize opportunities for abuse by every type of perpetrator — from the closest family members to professional criminals.
  • Nearly 60% of perpetrators were males. Most male perpetrators were between the ages of 30 and 59, while most of the female perpetrators were between the ages of 30 and 49. Perpetrators who were strangers often targeted victims with visible vulnerabilities (e.g., limited mobility, displays of confusion, or living alone).
  • The number of news articles increased and the character of elder financial abuse changed during the holidays. From November 2010 through January 2011, of the 1,128 articles on elder abuse identified through the newsfeeds, 354 (31%) concerned elder financial abuse. At least one-quarter (27%) of the cases reported were random, predominantly single-event crimes accounting for relatively small monetary rewards and characterized by a high level of brutality and disregard for human life. Reports of elder financial abuse perpetrated by strangers and by friends and families were very similar (47% vs. 45%, respectively).

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