I was recently reviewing the 2015 True Link Senior Vulnerability report conducted by the True Link data team and the Aging in Place Technology Watch, and the stats surrounding elder financial abuse are staggering. We often hear $2.9B is lost to elder financial abuse every year, but that statistic turned out to be a drastic understatement. Their research revealed it was more than 12 times that, at $36.48B!  That is what American seniors lose each YEAR to elder financial abuse and approx.  They also found 36.9% of seniors are affected by financial abuse in any five year period.

People often assume the most vulnerable are widows, the very old or people with severe memory loss. Well, it isn't as simple as that… in fact, risk equals vulnerability plus exposure. Seniors who are young, urban and college-educated lose more money than those who are not. In fact, a person who receives just one telemarketing phone call per day is likely to experience three times as much financial loss as someone who receives one or only the occasional telemarketing call.

Here is how financial loss occurs:
  1. Financial exploitation - when misleading or confusing information is provided often combined with social pressure to obtain consent to their money. It could also be excessive gifts, hidden shopping purchases etc.
  2. Criminal fraud - such as the Grandparent scam, fake lottery tickets, or identity theft.
  3. Caregiver abuse - Money is lost due to deceit or theft enabled by a trusting relationship - typically a family member, but sometimes a paid helper, friend, lawyer, account or financial manager. Borrowing money hoping the senior will forget, rewritten wills and sometimes combined with physical abuse or neglect.
Finally, who is most at risk? The source of exposure was surprising as well. Seniors described as extremely friendly lose four times as much to elder financial abuse, perhaps because they are approachable and may give strangers the benefit of the doubt. Financially sophisticated seniors lose more to fraud, likely because they are used to moving around large amounts of money. Thrifty seniors lose five times as much to fraud perhaps because they are enticed by bargains.

It's a sad reflection on society and I'm only talking dollars and cents here. What we know is financial abuse results in reduced emotional and physical health for seniors and the report went on to suggest that 954,000 seniors are currently skipping meals as a result of financial abuse.