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Financial Abuse of the Elderly Not to Be Overlooked

As we talk of the aging population in America we tend to hit the high points—the things that are on everyone’s mind, Social Security, care for senior citizens, physical elder abuse and prevention. One of the things that people do not pay as much attention to are signs of another type of elder abuse: fraud.

Fraud is a growing epidemic plaguing the senior citizens of America. One in five Americans over the age of 65 have been victimized by a financial swindle, according to a survey released by the Investor Protection Trust, a nonprofit education organization.

According to the Federal Trade Commission the most common complaints they receive are identity theft, lotteries, sweepstakes, and imposter scams (when someone poses as a relative or friend in trouble and calls asking for emergency money). Other frequent frauds involve bogus investments, prescription drug deals, advance loan fees, and business opportunities. For every case of elder fraud reported, it is estimated that four accounts go unreported.

Con artists will try to “sell” you products over the phone saying that they need some personal information before they can process the order. Never give out personal information, credit card information, bank account information, Medicare number, or income information. Seniors are targeted through the mail when receiving sweepstakes informing them they have won a prize. If this is a legitimate sweepstakes, you should not have to send any money, purchase anything, or give out financial information. Tear up anything you receive in the mail asking for personal information.

Knowing as much as you can prior to a financial crisis can be the best prevention. As uncomfortable as it is, talking to a senior citizen about their finances will build trust and educate family members about your elders’ finances. Depending on the situation, having two family members present will aid in the conversation and help put your senior at ease.

If you or a senior in your life feels that they have been a victim on financial fraud or would like more information on Elder Abuse, contact Linda Shortt, Ombudsman with Appalachian Agency for Senior Citizens at 276.964.4915.