The study is a follow-up of MetLife’s 2009 “Broken Trust: Elders, Family, and Finances”

The study examines the prevalence and impact of elder financial abuse in America today. It demonstrates how these crimes continue to decimate incomes, impact the health and well-being of its victims, and fracture families. Yet it still is underreported, under-recognized, and under-prosecuted.

Elder financial abuse continues to the “Crime of the 21st Century,” according to a recently published MetLife study on the financial abuse of the elderly, “The MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse: Crimes of Occasion, Desperation, and Predation Against America’s Elders.” The study shows that elder financial abuse falls into three types of crimes: occasion, desperation and predation. Additionally the vulnerabilities of aging increase the risk of elder financial abuse, and there is a continued lack of focus (and prosecution) on the perpetrator.

 Elder Americans are now estimated to lose $2.9 billion every year, with significant patterns in the nature of these abuses.

Most cases of abuse, 51 percent, are perpetrated by strangers, with close family and friends accounting for 34 percent. Crimes classified as “scams” committed by strangers accounted for 28 percent of all financial abuses, business-related exploits made up 12 percent, and Medicare and Medicaid fraud amounted to the most loss per case but only accounted for 4 percent of total cases. The most common perpetrator was likely to be a man between ages 30 and 59. When family or friends were involved, the study found that most cases involved forged checks, stolen credit cards, drained bank accounts, and transferred assets.

The most common victims are women, who are twice as likely to be financially abused as men, especially in their 80’s. Most cases found that it was when the victim’s disabilities were outwardly apparent due to the use of a cane, handicap tags, or simple confusion, but those living alone and in need of health care or home maintenance also are at risk.

The Elder Justice Act became law on March 23, 2010, and has significantly raised the national focus on elder financial abuse. Provisions of the Act are outlined in the study, which you can download here. Two of the provisions include required immediate reporting to law enforcement of crimes in a long-term care facility and civil monetary penalties for failure to report and a provision for penalties for long-term care facilities that retaliate against an employee for filing a complaint against or reporting a long-term care facility that violates reporting requirements.

Reference: (June, 2011) “The MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse: Crimes of Occasion, Desperation, and Predation Against America’s Elders” (study publication)


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