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.