Fighting the Crime of the 21st Century – Elder Financial Abuse

By: Jenefer Duane
Founder and CEO, Elder Financial Protection Network

As the United States’ population of persons over the age of 60 surges to the forefront of the economy in terms of retirement assets, so does the need to build an integrated response system to protect older adult community members from the growing crime of elder financial abuse.

Dubbed by experts to be “The Crime of the 21st Century,” elder financial abuse is the fastest growing form of elder abuse. Financial abuse occurs when a person or entity takes or keeps an elder’s property for wrongful use or with the intent to defraud. Most often perpetrated by self-interested family members, caregivers, con artists and unscrupulous salespersons, financial abuse includes the fraudulent misuse of powers of attorney, ATM theft, real estate fraud, investment fraud, contractor fraud, and telemarketing fraud…and the list goes on. The incidence of financial abuse is growing at an alarming rate and, according to the Journal of American Medicine, an elder who has been abused is three times more likely to die as a result.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is June 15, 2008, coordinated by The International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA). It also is Father’s Day, a fitting opportunity for the launch of this global campaign to increase awareness and compel us to reflect on the plight of an estimated 5 million victims of elder abuse in this country alone. The Institute of Aging in San Francisco recently estimated that 50% of cases of elder abuse involve financial exploitation. Elder Abuse Awareness Day helps us to come to terms with this growing socio-economic crisis and challenges us to commit ourselves to the fight to protect our greatest generation – our treasured senior citizens.

Today, with a “baby boomer” becoming turning 60 every 8 seconds, financial abuse is a serious threat to the safety and independence of all seniors. It is estimated that just 1 in 100 cases of financial abuse is reported. The burgeoning demographics of the aging population, combined with the prospect of a 10% state budget cut for senior programs including Adult Protective Services, further underscores the need for collaborative partnerships that focus on the continued development of a social network that supports and enhances the independence of our elder community members.

For the past 10 years, Elder Financial Protection Network (EFPN) has facilitated the sharing of best practices in elder financial abuse prevention between financial institutions and social service and law enforcement agencies, and has supported new initiatives, state-wide and beyond, that address the issue of elder financial abuse. EFPN continues to advocate for increased cooperation and collaboration between public and private sectors. We need your support in order to continue our work.

There is no excuse for elder abuse! Report suspected abuse to local Adult Protective Services and visit our website www.bewiseonline.org for a list of reporting resources. If you believe an elder is in danger or a crime has been committed, call the police.

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