Why are 1 in 20 Older Americans Financially Scammed?

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tablet computer on boatA new documentary film made by the daughter of a victim of financial fraud hopes to raise awareness about the very common risk of seniors falling prey to financial exploitation and scams.

Pamela Glasner’s documentary movie, entitled Last Will and Embezzlement, stars Mickey Rooney and demonstrates that anyone can have the wool pulled over their eyes, if they are not careful. It happened to the director’s parents and paints a cautionary tale as well as bringing the audience’s attention to some very disturbing facts.

What is financial exploitation?

Some examples of the type of financial exploitation covered in the documentary include:

  • Savings accounts being accessed illegally by an imposter claiming to be a long lost relative
  • Door-to-door salespeople conning consumers out of cash with promises of fake products that never arrive
  • Pyramid schemes or other “get rich quick” schemes that make investment promises which seem too good to be true
  • Phone call scams that obtain personal and credit card details
  • Family members or strangers taking advantage of people’s trusting nature and obtaining money or valuable goods through deception, coercion or abuse.

Who is at risk?

There are known to be certain financial abuse risk factors. Currently, it is know that seniors within the following demographics are the most at risk of financial scamming:

  • Women
  • Between the ages of 80 to 89
  • Live alone
  • Not living with their children and isolated from them due to geography or being estranged
  • Having physical or mental difficulties

1 in 20 fall victim

The Institute of Gerontology at Wayne State University has estimated that one in twenty older Americans will encounter financial exploitation. In order to help combat this phenomenon, the Institute is currently developing a risk assessment strategy, comprised of 61 questions which will be piloted before the end of 2013. By focusing in on who is most at risk, older consumers can do more to protect themselves from the threat of financial exploitation.

How will the assessment help to combat elder financial scamming?

The Wayne State University risk assessment questionnaire and a shorter 10 question screening test are intended to be used by professionals that work with the elderly. This will include:

  • Attorneys
  • Law enforcement workers
  • Staff at banks and other financial institutions that suspect abuse

It is hopes that should these personnel may notice something suspicious, such as out-of-place activity within an individual’s bank account, they would notify a manager who is trained to undertake the assessment.

What can elderly Americans do to protect themselves from financial scams?

With 11,000 “baby boomers” every year reaching the age of 65, it is important that older Americans keep alert, try to stay objective and consult trusted personnel like financial planners before entering into transactions or sales that might be scams.

Before taking the plunge into an investment that is touted as the next-big-thing, making an extravagant purchase that a salesperson or family member is encouraging you to commit to, American seniors should pause to ask themselves some vital questions. Those include:

  • What will be the impact of taking the decision to enter into the sale or transaction?
  • What is the worst case scenario that could eventuate from saying yes?
  • How will saying yes impact on long term finances?
  • What is the risk that the transaction can result in a major loss of funds?
  • Who has been consulted about the decision?

Have you fallen prey to a scam aimed at you in your golden years? Perhaps you have a friend or older relative who has been swindled by a scammer? Tell us your experiences below.


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