In our office at Sanders Law Group, we see an increasing number of cases of elder abuse and exploitation. In talking to our colleagues and those in the senior care business, as well as those at financial institutions, it’s clear that the problem has reached epidemic proportions. But it’s been hard to get a grasp on the actual size of the problem.
Last month, February 2019, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Office of Financial Protection for Older Americans, released a summary of data it has been collecting from financial institutions. The report is titled Suspicious Activity Reports on Elder Financial Exploitation: Issues and Trends.
Financial institutions have been tracking reports of exploitation since 2013. Much of this report is aimed at financial institutions, but I want to summarize here information that applies directly to our senior community:
- Filings on elder financial exploitation quadrupled from 2013 to 2017. In 2017, elder financial exploitation reports totaled 63,500. Based on recent prevalence studies, these 2017 reports likely represent a tiny fraction of actual incidents of elder financial exploitation.
- Financial institutions reported a total of $1.7 billion in suspicious activities in 2017, including actual losses and attempts to steal the older adults’ funds.
- In reports involving a loss to an older adult, the average amount lost was $34,200. In 7 percent of these, the loss exceeded $100,000.
- One third of the individuals who lost money were ages 80 and older. Adults ages 70 to 79 had the highest average monetary loss ($45,300). Losses were greater when the older adult knew the suspect. The average loss per person was about $50,000 when the older adult knew the suspect, and $17,000 when the suspect was a stranger.
- Fewer than one-third of reports indicated that the filer reported the suspicious activity to a local, state, or federal authority.
The report cites four major types of exploitation activity:
- Romance scams
- Exploitation by family member/fiduciary
- Theft by caregiver
- Scams claiming that money is needed for a family member.
Financial institutions are increasingly on the alert for suspicious activity and have systems in place for tracking patterns of exploitive behavior.
If you suspect that someone you know — a friend, loved one or neighbor — is being exploited or scammed, here are some steps to take.
– Contact Adult Protective Services at www.dshs.wa.gov/altsa/home-and-community-services/adult-abuse-and-prevention.
– Contact your local police department and ask for a wellness check.
– Contact an Elder Law Attorney. Oftentimes, Elder Law Attorneys are able to be more successful and faster in dealing with abuse than government agencies.
— By Ralph Sanders, Sanders Law Group