Many publications report on the prevalence of elder financial abuse in our society. It can arise from misuse of powers of attorney, guardianships, and estate and trust administrations, as well as out and out scams. Many institutions are working on this problem, including the US Department of Justice, the SEC, FINRA and state agencies. In future blogs, we will discuss the suggestions made by these agencies to avoid elder financial abuse, but let’s start with, why is this such a significant problem now? Here are a couple of basic reasons:

  • There are simply a lot more elderly people in the population, as a result of advances in medical care and better lifestyles
  • With increasing age comes the afflictions that increase with old age, including a loss in the ability to understand complex financial matters
  • Older people control much more wealth than was the case in prior generations. This is in part because of an increase in affluence generally, but it also reflects the fact that many elders do not have a monthly pension, but instead a lump sum account for retirement
  • And when they retire, they often have control of this large lump sum, without the assistance in investing that was provided to them by their employers
  • It’s more often the case that elders are on their own, without a network of nearby family connections
  • But as we’ve seen, it is sometimes family members who are defrauding their parents and grandparents
  • Finally, with the growth of media contacts, through the Inernet, cell phones and TV and radio, there are more situations in which elders can be contacted by scammers

And, by the way, it isn’t just elderly people with little financial savvy who are being “taken’ by scammers. People who are well educated and experienced in business have been the victims of financial abuse. Steps are being taken to deal with these problems, through legislation and agency rulemaking. But the process is ongoing, because scammers are always looking ways around rules that are made to protect the elderly. More people need to focus on ways in which financial abuse can be prevented and corrected.