In 2009, the MetLife Mature Market Institute conducted a in-depth study into financial elder abuse. In Florida and across the country, countless seniors fall victim to various types of abuse on a regular basis. The MetLife study found that financial abuse is underreported and accounts for victims losing at least $2.6 billion every year.

Researchers reported that older Americans tend to have a larger net worth, which makes them a target for perpetrators. The National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse notes that people who are 50 and older hold more than 70 percent of the wealth in the country. The NCPEA advises that the following behaviors fall into financial exploitation:

  •        Forging the elderly person’s signature
  •        Telemarking scams that encourage the elderly to send money through using scare tactics or exaggerated claims
  •        Manipulating the elderly into signing a will, deed or other important document
  •        Taking money or property without permission

Both the MetLife report and the NCPEA agree that the people who take advantage of the elderly tend to be trusted family or business members. In some cases, the elderly person may have a “new best friend” who inquires excessively about wealth.

Loved ones can do their part to prevent or stop the behavior by looking for warning signs, such as unexplained activity on bank accounts. Missing property, unpaid bills or confusion over legal documents such as powers of attorney may also indicate that something is awry.

The Florida Department of Elder Affairs encourages anyone who suspects financial abuse to report the incident to the Florida Abuse Hotline. Further, experts recommend drafting comprehensive wills, trusts and power of attorney documents that can limit how much access relatives have to someone’s money.

Luis E. Barreto