Look Who’s Defrauding Your Mom and Dad

grandmasmoneyFew things are more disturbing than stories of elder abuse. But while physical abuse and neglect of seniors gets plenty of attention, financial abuse of the elderly is less visible.

Still, about one in eight of the elder abuse cases reported every year relate to financial abuse, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse. And the perps are not who you might think.

In a new study of the state of elder financial fraud, 58 percent of the people reporting financial abuse said the wrongdoer was a relative, most often an adult child.

“It’s happening in the house. Somebody is borrowing money or helping themselves to things. The older adult knows it’s happening, but it really doesn’t stop,” said Janey Peterson, an assistant professor of clinical epidemiology at Weill Cornell Medical College and the lead author of the study.

  Few things are more disturbing than stories of elder abuse. But while physical abuse and neglect of seniors gets plenty of attention, financial abuse of the elderly is less visible.

Still, about one in eight of the elder abuse cases reported every year relate to financial abuse, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse. And the perps are not who you might think.

In a new study of the state of elder financial fraud, 58 percent of the people reporting financial abuse said the wrongdoer was a relative, most often an adult child.

“It’s happening in the house. Somebody is borrowing money or helping themselves to things. The older adult knows it’s happening, but it really doesn’t stop,” said Janey Peterson, an assistant professor of clinical epidemiology at Weill Cornell Medical College and the lead author of the study.

Financial abuse of the elderly in general has been growing. A 2012 survey of experts working with the elderly by the Investor Protection Trust found that 84 percent believe the problem of elder financial abuse has been growing.

Absent changes in the rate of financial abuse of the elderly, the situation is likely to worsen further as the population ages. The Census Bureau estimates that the number of people over age 65 will increase from 40 million as of 2010 to 82 million by 2040.

The Weill Cornell study found that 4.7 percent of respondents had experienced financial abuse in their lifetimes. So if the current incidence of financial fraud by family members continues, by 2040, more than two million seniors will have been financially abused by people they love.

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