As the U.S. population ages, more attention is being paid to elder financial abuse. And the growing mountain of data and victims’ stories is beginning to provide a clearer picture of the threats seniors and their family members face, as well as clues about the best ways to battle the onslaught.
Last year, Allianz conducted a study of more than 2,000 Americans titled “Safeguarding our Seniors,” polling both potential victims (ages 65+) and their friends and family (ages 40-64) in an attempt to uncover the most common threats, the impact on victims and their families, and the most effective strategies for prevention and fighting back.
“As America’s population gets older and age-related cognitive impairments escalate, greater awareness about the frequency of elder financial abuse will foster more discussion about ways to keep our seniors safe from financial exploitation,” said Allianz Life President and CEO Walter White.
When asked where the biggest perceived threats came from, many respondents displayed a lack of awareness consistent with results found in other studies. Survey respondents listed outside threats such as:
However, seniors who have been taken advantage of financially or those who personally know a victim revealed a different and often far more personal threat. When asked who took advantage of them or their family member, they cited:
Among those who reported experiencing financial abuse, the incident was far more likely to have been perpetrated by a family member, friend, neighbor or caregiver (52 percent) than a stranger (22 percent).
A growing (misunderstood) threat
Victims surveyed for the study suffered an average financial loss of approximately $30,000, with more than 10 percent of victims saying they suffered losses of $100,000 or more. Because victims are often targeted based on age, wealth and decreasing mental capacity, cases of elder financial abuse are expected to increase as baby boomers continue to age in the coming years.