In 2010 alone, reported instances of scams and fraud against older adults resulted in losses of about $2.9 billion. Since most cases of elder financial abuse go unreported, however, aging experts and researchers believe this number is much higher than the actual total amount of money lost to these schemes and frauds. One study by Cornell University suggests that the prevalence rate of elder abuse, including financial exploitation, is some 24 times higher than what is currently reported.
These numbers are expected to grow as the older adult population in the United States swells to a record 71 million people over the next few decades. With many older adults living on limited incomes, a massive financial loss due to fraud could plunge them into financial, physical, and psychological trauma.
The disruption to their financial stability can push many older adults onto already-stretched-out federal and state support programs, cause them to lose their homes, and the stress and depression that can be triggered by their victimization can impair their mental and physical health. The current level of awareness and prevention education is not adequately halting the threat of elder financial exploitation and more needs to be done to protect the hard-earned savings of our nation’s older adults.