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Financial Planning > Behavioral Finance

Are older Americans too confident about avoiding fraud?

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Have you ever been in an audience and the speaker says, “half of you will die of cancer.” You then spend the next few moments looking around the room, deciding which poor souls will be stricken because obviously you will not be among them.

Well, that seems to be the attitude older Americans have about financial abuse, according to a report by Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America. In their study, Safeguarding Our Seniors, 89 percent of seniors said “they could recognize elder financial abuse if it happened to them or a family member/friend, with only 1 percent definitively responding they could not. Yet only 78 percent of younger family/friends of elders – some of whom are in a position to care for those elders – had confidence in their own ability to recognize elder financial abuse, and more than one in five (22 percent) said they could not or are unsure.”

“Although some of the differences in the responses of elders and family members are not huge, these statistics are concerning because they may point to overconfidence on the part of elders to detect and stop financial abuse,” said Allianz Life President and CEO Walter White. “With financial abusers becoming increasingly sophisticated, elders should be very cautious about overconfidence. Vigilance and education about the sources of financial abuse can help elders and caregivers take steps to prevent the abuse from occurring.”

Other findings from the study:

* 18 percent of family/friends are worried about an elder family member or friend becoming a victim of financial abuse
* Only 11 percent of elders share that concern.
* 82 percent of elders said they have resources to protect themselves
* Only 58 percent of family/friends believe they have resources to protect an elder family member
* 77 perecent of elders view prevention as their personal responsibility.

According to the report, “When asked if they would tell someone if they became a victim of elder financial abuse, the vast majority (94 percent) said they would. However, family/friends expressed more doubt about their elder family member or friends’ willingness to share, with half of those respondents saying they either don’t believe the elder would tell someone or are unsure. The majority of family/friends (72 percent) cited embarrassment as the primary barrier they believe keeps elders from reporting financial abuse.”

Raising Awareness To raise awareness of elder financial abuse, Allianz Life partnered with the Better Business Bureau and created the Safeguarding Our Seniors volunteer program. This unique program, open to Allianz Life employees and community members, sends volunteers to community and senior organizations to educate and encourage discussion on the topic. In addition, Allianz Life worked with the Better Business Bureau to develop the Preventing Elder Financial Abuse Tip Sheet, available via, which contains red flags to watch for and tips for prevention. Seniors with concerns about questionable offers they’ve received or who are looking to find reliable companies to work with can contact the Better Business Bureau at 800-646-6222 or visit for more information.