Florida has long been a retirement destination, and recent data from the Pew Research Center shows that Florida has the highest percentage (19.1%) of citizens over the age of 65 of every state in our nation. Because of this, it is vitally important that Florida residents of all ages remain aware of threats against the aging and elderly. According to a study recently released by the nonprofit group Investor Protection Trust, one of the most common threats against the elderly is financial abuse.
The Investor Protection Trust (IPT) issued a report on March 22 entitled "Elder Investment Fraud and Financial Exploitation". According to this report, common forms of elder financial abuse include encouraging elders to make inappropriate investments, fraudulent schemes, and very high fees for financial services.
To gather this information, the Public Policy Polling (PPP) arm of IPT interviewed both senior citizens (2,275 individuals over the age of 65), and more than 700 adults who have parents who are senior citizens. They learned that up to 80% of Americans over the age of 65 handle their own finances without assistance from family members or financial advisors for daily financial decisions. They also learned that roughly 43% of seniors in the United States show more than one of the most common warning signs of financial abuse, which may include:
- Difficulty paying bills
- Confusion about financial matters
- Difficulty understanding financial decisions others make for them
- Giving access to bank accounts to others
These and other issues make senior citizens especially vulnerable to financial abuse.
In addition to the possible confusion about their own finances, this study also found that many senior citizens feel shame regarding their increasing inability to effectively manage their own money. This means that they may be far less likely to tell loved ones if something is amiss or if they have already been victims of financial abuse. In fact, the IPT researchers found that roughly 21% of the adult children they interviewed believed that their parents would not tell them if they had been victims of financial abuse, and nearly one-half of those adult children said that they would "not be likely" to figure it out on their own if their parents had been defrauded.
Just as it is crucial that loved ones remain aware of signs of elder financial abuse, it is also incumbent on medical providers and other caretakers to help protect against this type of victimization, says IPT President and CEO Don Blandin, and IPT is working in educating caregivers about this often ignored role. In a press release, he stated, "While it is still alarming to see that nearly one out of five older Americans have been victims of financial swindles, it is encouraging that doctors and adult children are more tuned into this problem. Doctors and the nurses who work with seniors are playing an important ‘first responder’ role in spotting older Americans who have been or are being victimized by investment fraud and other financial exploitation. State securities regulators and others are working with thousands of doctors nationwide to make sure that they learn the symptoms of this problem and what to prescribe in terms of help from the experts who are standing by to provide it."
The IPT has developed their Elder Investment Fraud and Financial Exploitation (EIFFE) Prevention Program in a partnership with the Huffington Center on Aging at Baylor College of Medicine and the Texas Consortium Geriatric Education Center. This group has worked with state securities offices to hold 90 events across the nation designed to train medical professionals to identify warning signs and vulnerabilities to elder financial abuse.
If you are concerned that an elder you love has been or may become a victim of financial abuse, you can take steps to protect them by taking a more active role in their finances, investigating their financial institutions, and having open conversations about the issue. You may also wish to consult with an attorney experienced in elder abuse claims to learn more about your rights and responsibilities. To learn more, please contact our Florida law firm to speak with an attorney who can provide you with the guidance and support you need.