The times in which we are living are very interesting for elder law professionals due to the age demographic of the United States population. The media has recently been reporting that about 10,000 people are applying for Social Security for the first time each and every day. Indeed, Senior citizens are the fastest-growing segment of our society, so any phenomenon that is impacting seniors at present can only be expected to trend upward going forward.
With that in mind we would like to shed some light on the growing problem of elder financial abuse. The thought that anyone would be so diabolical as to specifically target the elderly is certainly a sad one, but the fact is that it happens ubiquitously and it is rarely reported to the authorities. In fact it is estimated that only around 4% of the instances of elder financial abuse are ever brought to the attention of law enforcement. Why does this abuse take place in the shadows with the perpetrators almost always getting away with it?
That would be because in most cases the abuser is someone that is known to the victim. Most commonly the perpetrator is a family member, and grown sons of the elderly are 2 1/2 times more likely to commit acts of elder financial abuse than any other relative. Aside from family members caregivers, “advisers,” and new found friends are also frequent abusers.
In addition to instances of elder financial abuse that are perpetrated by people who are known to the victim, seniors are frequently targeted by purveyors of scams and con artists. These dregs of society recognize the fact that a high percentage of seniors are suffering from some form of reduced cognitive capabilities and these criminals are more than willing to take full advantage of this opening.
This problem is deeply embedded in our culture and it is not going to disappear any time soon. The next time you visit your estate planning attorney to review your estate plan it would be a good idea to discuss the growing problem of elder financial abuse and asked what can be done legally to mitigate your exposure.