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Study: 'Dramatic' increase in exploitation of older adults

Elderly men and women are among the most vulnerable people when it comes to abuse and exploitation. Often, these parties are unfamiliar with technology, isolated and experiencing mental declines that affect their decision-making skills. As such, they can be targets for theft and financial abuse.

Sadly, this trend does not seem to be easing up. In fact, according to statistics from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, the number of suspicious activity reports (SARs) filed in the last six years has increased dramatically.

What the statistics say

Reports state that between January and August 2019, $5 billion was involved in SAR filings. This is more than double the amount involved in all of 2014, which totaled $2.2 billion.

The report also notes that the most common culprits of reported theft are family members, which accounted for about 46 percent of such cases. Nonfamily member caregivers were named in 19 percent of the incidences.

Further, the report identified three major scams targeting the elderly. Scams, which were involved in more than one-third of the SARs, included:

  • Establishing a romantic relationship with the target and then requesting money for hardships or travel expenses
  • Claiming to be a relative or loved one in a dire situation and requesting money to get help
  • Telling the person that he or she has won a non-existent lottery or prize and must send a fee to collect it

How to protect potential targets

These numbers paint a grim picture for elderly Coloradoans. However, knowing the reality of the situation can help loved ones appreciate the importance of protecting elderly family members.

To do this, you might encourage an aging parent to meet with an attorney to discuss powers of attorney or guardianships. You can also remind them to shred sensitive documents and never give out personal information in emails or over the phone.

Perhaps most importantly is to check in on seniors regularly and keep an eye out for signs of financial exploitation and abuse. This could include bounced checks or unpaid bills, unusually close relationships with certain people, or high volumes of solicitation phone calls, mail and emails.

These measures can make a person less likely to be the victim of theft or financial abuse.

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