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Financial Planning > Behavioral Finance

Protecting seniors from financial scams

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In an effort to protect senior citizens from money swindles, U.S. regulators have released a new guide for teaching older adults how to detect financial scams and avoid being exploited.

Additionally, Investor Protection Trust (IPT) reported the findings of a recent survey of doctors and nurses and the prevalence of elder financial fraud.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau developed the curriculum for instructing groups of seniors and their caregivers. It can be used by employees of financial firms, adult protective service agencies, senior advocate groups and law enforcement personnel, the agencies said Wednesday.

The free curriculum, titled “Money Smart for Older Adults,” includes an instructor guide, a participant guide and Power Point slides. It is available here.

The guide notes red flags that seniors should look out for, such as people asking for their bank account numbers over the phone.

Meanwhile, the IPT released the results of a recent online survey of 603 doctors and nurses across the country. Nearly a quarter – 21 percent – said they are aware that they are often dealing with elderly victims of investment fraud/financial exploitation. Over 60 percent said that research linking mild cognitive impairment to financial scams and seniors is consistent with what they see in their practice, and 92 percent supported the notion that mild cognitive impairment often makes seniors more vulnerable to investment fraud/financial exploitation.

Other significant findings from the survey included:

  • More than four out of five doctors/nurses (84 percent) are willing to refer an elderly patient who may be the victim of investment fraud to those who may be able to help them with their financial affairs or to the proper authorities for help.
  • About three out of five doctors (61 percent) would be interested in continuing medical education credits to learn more about spotting the signs of investment fraud/financial exploitation of the elderly.
  • More than four out of five doctors/nurses (81 percent) think that doctors have an important role in recognizing and reporting the signs of investment fraud/financial exploitation targeting the elderly.
  • More than nine out of 10 doctors/nurses (91 percent) think that older Americans are vulnerable to investment fraud/financial exploitation.
  • Four out of five doctors/nurses (82 percent) say that investment fraud/financial exploitation targeting the elderly is a serious problem.

A 2010 IPT survey found that more than 7 million older Americans have already been the victim of a financial swindle.

Additional reporting from the Associated Press.

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