By Cyril Tuohy
A new study by Allianz Life has found that older Americans who are victims of elder abuse experience an average financial loss of $30,000. Those losses are more likely to come at the hands of people with whom the victims are familiar.
The Safeguarding Our Seniors survey was taken by more than 2,000 Americans 65 years or older who were potential victims of abuse, and friends and family of potential victims ages 40 to 64.
Among the victims of financial abuse, 33 percent had funds disappear from their accounts, and 23 percent had experienced unauthorized purchases of a product or services, the survey found.
Victims said average loses amounted to $30,000, and 12 percent reported suffering a financial loss of $100,000 or more, the survey found.
Allianz Life president and chief executive officer Walter White said in a news release that as more people turn 65, “more people than ever before will be affected by elder financial abuse."
Older Americans, many suffering from depression or other conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, often have trouble managing day-to-day finances. They also are vulnerable to scams, which range from bogus telephone solicitations to unscrupulous financial advisors.
According to the victims interviewed, 52 percent said the abuse originated through a family member, friend or caregiver.
Americans age 65 and older are in the midst of a huge transfer of wealth. Baby boomers are inheriting assets from parents. In turn, the boomers are preparing to pass along assets to their children, members of Generation X, born between 1964 and 1978.
Boomers, the first of whom turned 65 in 2011, control more than $16 trillion in household investable assets, according to LIMRA.
Much of the abuse takes place at a retail level involving bank accounts where small quantities are siphoned off over long periods. But more valuable assets offer tempting targets for sophisticated thieves like dishonest financial advisors.
A lot of abuse goes unreported or underreported, the survey found.
Only 5 percent of respondents 65 and older said they suffered an episode of financial abuse, but 19 percent of family and friend respondents reported they were aware of an older friend or family member who had been a victim of abuse.
The survey found that 78 percent of family and friends felt confident they could recognize abuse if it happened to a family member or friend, and 89 percent of elders were confident they could recognize abuse if it happened to them.
Interest groups representing retirees and the elderly have raised the issue of elder abuse for years. With the aging of baby boomers, elder abuse is beginning to capture the attention of lawmakers who recently held hearings on how to protect and recognize scams targeted at older Americans.
In 2010, the population of Americans 65 years old or older made up 13 percent of the total population, but that percentage will grow to more than 20 percent by 2030, according to demographic projections.
Cyril Tuohy is a writer based in Pennsylvania. He has covered the financial services industry for more than 15 years. Cyril may be reached at email@example.com.
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