Almost one of five Americans over the age of 65 have “been taken advantage of financially in terms of an inappropriate investment, unreasonably high fees for financial services, or outright fraud,” according to a new survey.

Public Policy Polling (PPP) for the Investor Protection Trust (IPT), a nonprofit organization devoted to investor education and protection, discloses this finding in a survey of 3,672 Americans, including 2,257 seniors and 703 adults with senior parents. IPT conducted the research through automated telephone interviews with a random sample of American adults.

The report’s finding that 17 percent or nearly seven million seniors experienced financial elder abuse is slightly down from the 20 percent of seniors who reported in a 2010 IPT survey that they had been victimized.

While documenting the extent of elder financial abuse and exploitation in the U.S., the IPT report also identifies encouraging signs of improvement over the last 6 years:

Efforts to involve doctors in spotting and reporting signs of financial exploitation of the elderly appear to be working.  Of those who are in touch with their parent’s health care providers, 21 percent of children with elderly parents report “the healthcare providers ever mention[ing] any concerns about your parents handling of money or relayed any concern from your parent about handling money”. (This is up sharply from 5 percent in 2010.)

However, of that same group, 27 percent report the health care provider has mentioned “concerns about your parents’ mental comprehension.” (This is up from the 2010 level of 19 percent.) More than three fifths (61 percent) of children are not in touch with their parents’ health care providers.

Concerted efforts to educate elderly investors about investment schemes may be gaining traction. In a major improvement from 2010, when 44 percent of those aged 65 or over got at least two out of four questions wrong about basic investment knowledge, over half (51 percent) polled this year’s survey got all the answers right and only 14 percent got two or more answers wrong.

Why the focus on the role of doctors?  The effort led by IPT to involve doctors in spotting and reporting the signs of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) that can result in older Americans being more vulnerable to money swindles started in 2010.  The IPT Elder Investment Fraud and Financial Exploitation (EIFFE) Prevention Program was developed by the Huffington Center on Aging at Baylor College of Medicine and the Texas Consortium Geriatric Education Center. 

Since 2010, IPT has worked with 30 state securities offices to form a coalition to prevent elder investment fraud/financial exploitation. To date, 90 continuing medical education (CME) events have been held in 30 states and jurisdictions (as well as events at national and regional conferences), providing EIFEE Prevention Program training to 8,600 medical professionals. 

“While it is still alarming to see that nearly one out of five older Americans have been victims of financial swindles, it is encouraging that doctors and adult children are more tuned into this problem,” says Investor Protection Trust President and CEO Don Blandin. “Doctors and the nurses who work with seniors are playing an important ‘first responder’ role in spotting older Americans who have been or are being victimized by investment fraud and other financial exploitation.”

Among the 2016 survey’s other key findings:

  • Nearly half (47 percent) of children of parents 65 or older are “very” or “somewhat” worried that their parents “have already become or will become less able to handle their personal finances over time.”  (This is up from 40 percent in 2010.)

  • Only 25 percent say they are “not worried at all” about such a development.  (This is down from 36 percent in 2010.)  (Those over 65 have a somewhat different view: 30 percent are “very” or “somewhat” worried about being less able over time, compared to 36 who expressed such concerns in 2010.)

  • 74 percent of children think that their parent aged 65 or older would tell them “immediately” if they were swindled, compared to 21 percent who think their parents would be ashamed and hide such a fact. However, nearly half (47 percent) of children say it is “not very likely” or “not likely at all” they would be able to figure out that their parent had been swindled if they did not disclose it.  (That is up from 35 percent in 2010.)

  • 90 percent of children are “very confident” or “somewhat confident” of their parent’s current ability to handle personal finances. Only 9 percent of children are “not very confident” or “not confident at all.”

  • This is relatively close to the views of those age 65 or older: 97 percent say they are “very” or “somewhat” confident about their current ability to handle money and just 3 percent who are “not very confident” or “not confident at all” with handling personal finances.

Read the full report here.

 

See also:

Are older Americans too confident about avoiding fraud?

Why elder financial abuse is not going away

National Underwriter’s 2015 Rogues Gallery

Stop the growth of elder abuse