Financial abuse of older adults may be far more common than
many people realize. About 5% of people 65 and older say they've been the
victim of financial abuse, but that percentage is probably an underestimate, a
new survey suggests.
In fact, 19% of people ages 40 to 64 say they have an older
family member or friend who has been the victim of elder financial abuse,
according to a survey of 2,248 U.S. adults ages 40 and older conducted for
Allianz Life, which provides retirement options including annuities and life
insurance. Elder financial abuse is when someone takes advantage of an older
person, possibly using their money improperly or without their permission or
taking it for personal gain.
About 52% of elder financial abuse victims say they were
taken advantage of by a family member, friend or caregiver; 22% say it was a
stranger. The rest blame companies, churches, salesmen and others.
The average amount lost: $30,000. About 12% report missing
$100,000 or more.
Walter White, president and CEO of Allianz Life, says there
are famous cases of elder financial abuse, such as Mickey Rooney and Brooke
Astor, but he also had an incident in his own family. One of his great aunts
was planning to leave a small bequest to his family, but someone befriended her
late in life to get access to her money.
Sally Hurme, an elder law attorney with AARP, says it's hard
to pin down how many older adults are victims of financial abuse. The reasons for the differences are many but
include the realization that some victims may not even know that they are being
victimized, she says. Some estimates
suggest that older Americans may lose billions each year because of financial
According to the new survey, the most common types of
financial loss reported: funds disappearing from accounts (reported by 33%);
unauthorized purchase of products or services (reported by 23%).
About 78% of people ages 40 to 64 feel confident that they could
recognize financial abuse if it happened to a family member or friend, but only
58% feel like they have the resources and information to prevent it from
Most people believe the biggest threat for financial abuse
comes from a telemarketing scams or over the phone, followed by Internet scams.
White offers these tips for protecting yourself from
• Educate yourself to recognize the red flags of financial
• Have a third party, such as an accountant, attorney or
financial adviser, monitor your accounts for any suspicious activity and
consult on key tax matters and legal documents.
• Never reveal personal financial information in response to
a telephone or online solicitation.
• Put your financial decisions in writing so there is no
confusion later in life.
• Get a second opinion before changing your power of
attorney, will or trust.
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