Yes and no. One survey states the proportion of elder financial fraud victims is down, but thieves are choosing more lucrative targets
According to estimates, billions of dollars are stolen from elderly people every year. Whether by financial professionals, caregivers, or even family members, financial elder fraud has been rampant in the U.S. for years.
“Older Americans make attractive targets for financial exploitation because many have accumulated some wealth in the form of retirement savings or home equity,” said Richard Cordray, direction of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). “They can be isolated and lonely, and some may have impaired physical or mental capacity that makes them especially vulnerable.”
However, there does seem to be a little glimmer of hope. Recently, the nonprofit Investor Protection Trust (IPT) conducted a survey that revealed that rates of elder fraud may be dropping. Although 17 percent of Americans 65 and older admitted that they have been taken advantage of when it comes to their finances in 2016, that figure dropped slightly from a previous survey – it was 20 percent in 2010.
A slight drop in the survey, but bigger targets
One of the reasons why fewer older people may be victimized is because scammers are changing their approach, says Don Blandin, IPT President and CEO. Instead of going after several people for smaller scores, they’re now focusing on more lucrative targets.
In addition, the percentage of financial victimization warning signs has dropped by seven percent, which seems to be due to more older Americans relying on help to make financial decisions.
Another bright spot: The survey found that 21 percent of adult children said their parents’ doctors and other healthcare providers have brought up concerns regarding how they were handling money, up from just five percent a few years ago.
Fighting elder abuse
Recognizing how big of a problem financial elder fraud is, the government has created numerous initiatives to help. An assortment of organizations – including CFPB, FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority), NASAA (North American Securities Administrators Association), and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission – have all put programs and regulations in place to curb incidences of elder financial abuse.
The bad news
While things seem to be getting better, there are still signs that this epidemic won’t be cured anytime soon. In the IPT survey, 21 percent of adult children said they believed their parents would be too embarrassed to tell them that they were being scammed. Plus, nearly half thought they wouldn’t be able to figure out on their own that their parents were victims, which is a dramatic increase from the last survey. This is especially true when elder financial fraud involves a trusted financial advisor or broker, who may commit acts like churning – excessively trading a client’s account simply to generate commissions – that are not easily spotted by individuals who are not financial professionals.
Even with these incremental improvements, financial elder fraud continues to plague Americans who have worked hard to earn their money. If you feel as though you are a victim of elder financial fraud by a broker or investment advisor – or perhaps a parent or older relative of a victim – it is important to take action as quickly as possible. Money may be able to be recovered through securities arbitration or other legal means.
For more information, contact the elder financial fraud attorneys at the Silver Law Group. We may be able to help you recover lost funds, and because we work on contingency, you won’t owe us anything unless you get money back. You can quickly get in touch with us by filling out our online form.