Elder abuse is real and more common than you think. You or a loved one may be at risk because as seniors age, they increasingly become targets for scammers, con artists and abusers—and sadly, the abuser may be a family member. The National Council on Aging reports that every year up to 5 million older Americans are abused, and that $36.5 billion is the estimated annual loss suffered by victims of financial abuse. Seniors can become easy victims for scams because often they are isolated, lonely and tend to be trusting. Many seniors may suffer from memory loss or dementia, leaving them even more vulnerable to scams. Seniors are often a big target because they are thought to have substantial amounts of money, but even those on a fixed income are targeted.
The epidemic of elder abuse has been worsening in recent years, and the current pandemic has sparked new scams related to COVID-19. It’s become more important for seniors to understand how to protect themselves. The first step is identifying the types of elder abuse and their frequency:
Neglect and Self-Neglect (29%) – The failure to provide the goods or services necessary for avoiding physical harm, mental anguish or mental illness, e.g., abandonment, denial of food or of health-related services.
Financial Abuse/Exploitation (29%) – The improper act of using the resources of an older person without his or her consent, especially for another person’s benefit.
Emotional Abuse (24%) – The infliction of mental or emotional abuse, i.e., humiliating, intimidating or threatening an elderly person.
Physical Abuse (24%) – The infliction of mental or emotional anguish, i.e., slapping, bruising, restraining.
Sexual Abuse (2%) – Inappropriately touching or sexually molesting an elderly person.
Isolation is the biggest indicator that a senior is experiencing elder abuse. The reason is that many seniors who are experiencing abuse may feel ashamed or embarrassed, especially if the abuser is a family member.
In addition, memory impairments like Alzheimer’s or dementia may make a senior feel like they won’t be believed if they tell someone. They may be in denial that the abuse is occurring or may be afraid that if they report it, the abuse will get worse.
Do NOT let these things stop you from reporting elder abuse if it’s happening to you or someone you love.
How Can I Protect Myself or a Loved One?
Create a network of trusted advisors, professionals and friends who have the senior’s best interests at heart.
Appoint a financial planner to provide oversight if there are concerns about a specific family member or caregiver’s decisions.
Keep vigilant for signs of financial abuse, which often initially appears as a benevolent fundraising request. Continue reading to learn about some of the most prevalent fraudulent schemes targeting seniors.
The 10 Most Common Senior Scams
1) Obituary Scam – Using obituaries to target recent widows, scammers attempt to collect false debts of the deceased.
2) Magazine Subscription – Company sends free magazines and convinces a senior she owes money for the subscription.
3) Sweepstakes – Crooked contest claims a senior won a prize and needs to send in money to collect winnings.
4) Charitable Donations – Unscrupulous charities take advantage of generosity and memory loss to request donations repeatedly.
5) Investment Scam – Salesperson convinces a senior that an unusual asset like a horse farm is worth a significant investment.
6) Grandparent Scam – Scammer calls late at night pretending to be a grandchild in need of emergency funds by wire.
7) Helpful Nephew Scam – Trusted relative visits a senior frequently and asks to borrow $10, knowing the requests will be forgotten.
8) Sweetheart Scam – Scammer befriends a lonely older adult to get access to money or to be written into the will.
9) TV Shopping Trickery – As-seen-on-TV products hide extra fees and charges in the fine print.
10) NEW! Coronavirus Scams – A new wave of criminals are targeting seniors by capitalizing on their fears.
One of the first things you can do to protect yourself of a senior loved one is to place a checklist of reporting agencies in plain sight, along with the warning signs of abuse. Go ahead and print this blog post so that you can have the information at hand.
Resources for Reporting and Helping Elder Abuse Victims
National Center on Elder Abuse (www.ncea.acl.gov) – State resources, including helplines, hotlines and information.
U.S. Administration on Aging (www.eldercare.gov; 1-800-677-1116) – In partnership with the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, operates the Eldercare Locator to help individuals find local resources.
National Center for Victims of Crime—Financial Crime Resource Center (www.victimsofcrime.org) – Helps victims of financial crime recover their assets and recover control of their lives.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (www.consumerfinance.org) – Ensures that consumers get the information they need to make sound financial decisions.
Reach Out to a Senior Care Advisor
Finally, if you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, reach out to an Amada Senior Care advisor for resources. Click here to find an Amada Senior Care location near you or call us toll-free at 877-44-AMADA. We’re here to help.
Written by Jeremy Brooker and updated by Michelle Flores, Amada blog contributors.