Experts Say Financial Abuse of Elderly Getting Worse
By Terri Eyden
The Investor Protection Trust (IPT) released on June 13, 2012, the results of its Elder Investment Fraud and Financial Exploitation Survey. The survey found that 84 percent of the 762 respondents who deal with investment fraud and financial exploitation of American senior citizens agree that the problem is getting worse.
In an effort to help protect the elderly, the IPT ‒ in partnership with the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) and the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA) ‒ created the groundbreaking Elder Investment Fraud and Financial Exploitation (EIFFE) Prevention Program.
Through the program, medical professionals are educated on how to spot older Americans who may be particularly vulnerable to investment fraud abuse. They then refer patients they have identified as being at risk to state securities regulators and Adult Protective Services (APS) professionals.
Key finding of the survey include:
- 75 percent of respondents say that older Americans are "very vulnerable" to financial swindles; 24 percent say they are "somewhat vulnerable."
- 58 percent say they deal with elderly victims of investment fraud/financial exploitation "quite often" or "somewhat often." Only 7 percent say they never deal with such victims.
- 70 percent say the problem of elderly investment fraud/financial exploitation is "very serious" or "somewhat serious" (26 percent).
- 93 percent indicate that medical professionals can play a "very" or "somewhat" important role "when they are trained to spot and report the warning signs of elderly investment fraud/financial exploitation."
- The top three reasons why elderly investment frauds go unreported are: "shame on the part of victims" (86 percent); "the ability of con artists to string victims along until it is too late" (80 percent); and "failure of adult children to spot the problem and intervene" (70 percent).
- 96 percent of respondents say that "potential problems with mental comprehension make seniors more vulnerable" to financial swindles "very often" or "quite often."
- 80 percent of respondents say that their experience is "very" or "somewhat" consistent with "a 2008 study (that) found that about 35 percent of the 25 million people over age 71 in the United States either have mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer's disease, making them especially vulnerable to financial exploitation, including investment fraud."
Don Blandin, president and CEO of IPT, said, "The message from those on the front lines of investor protection is clear: Swindles targeting older Americans are a bigger problem today than ever before. That is why we have already trained 3,000 US medical professionals who deal every day with older Americans to spot the impaired mental capacity that can leave seniors vulnerable to financial abuse. We want to head off financial swindles before the damage is done."
NAPSA Executive Director Kathleen Quinn said, "Adult Protective Services professionals are the 'first responders' to elder financial abuse, so we see the devastation these crimes wreak in older persons' lives every day. That is why we are part of this major national campaign to end rampant elder financial exploitation and to protect and help vulnerable older victims."
Through the EIFFE Prevention Program, a total of 43 continuing medical education (CME) events have been held in 24 states and the District of Columbia, with 3,000 medical professionals having received training.
The IPT survey, which was conducted during the first 10 days of June 2012, is available online.
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