While we would like to think our elderly loved ones are immune from financial exploitation, this is just not the reality. Indeed, consider that Senator Susan Collins, chair of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, recently classified financial fraud against seniors as a “growing epidemic” responsible for the loss of an estimated $2.9 billion per year.
As astounding as this numbers is, consider also that the population of retired people in the U.S. is only going to grow in the coming years, creating more opportunities for fraud. The reason? More Baby Boomers, a generation that has amassed considerable wealth, will be officially exiting the workforce and entering their long-awaited retirement years.
It’s important to understand that as distressing as all this is, the issue of financial abuse of elders has not gone overlooked by federal and even state officials.
At the federal level, seniors are already protected by the Elder Justice Act of 2010, while Sen. Collins recently introduced legislation calling for improved fraud reporting and instruction for seniors on how to better protect themselves. This isn’t to mention, of course, the recent efforts of both the Justice Department Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to protect seniors.
At the state level, lawmakers are continuing with efforts to pass legislation designed to protect the senior population from financial exploitation, while state agencies like the Office of Children & Family Services, via Protective Services for Adults (PSA) programs, already actively investigate and take action when necessary.
All this naturally raises the question as to what people can do to protect their own elderly loved ones. According to the PSA, one vital step is to learn to identify potential signs of financial exploitation, including:
- A loved one suddenly becoming acquainted with a stranger who appears too interested in their financial affairs or otherwise insinuates themselves into every aspect of their lives
- A loved one being evasive when asked about the state of their finances
- A loved one being unable to recall signing paperwork or making financial transactions
- A loved one being unable to account for missing funds
If you are a senior or the family member of a senior who would like to learn more about asset protection strategies or another pressing elder law issue, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional to learn more about your options.