TRACI L. WEISENBACH, The Huron Daily Tribune
When most people think of abuse, physical abuse is often the first thing to come to mind. However, there is another kind of abuse that isn’t as easy to see, but it can be just as devastating for the victim.
Perhaps some of the worst aspects of this kind of abuse are that it often goes undetected — and it is happening at an alarming rate across the nation to a very vulnerable portion of the population: the elderly.
This abuse is called financial exploitation. Unfortunately, it’s the most admirable characteristics of the elderly that make them prime targets for this exploitation.
According to information from the Federal Bureau of Investigation website, older Americans are most likely to have a nest egg. They’ve been saving for years so they can enjoy life in retirement. They own homes and usually have great credit. According to Consumers Digest, about 70 percent of all funds deposited in financial institutions are controlled by people age 65 and older. This makes senior citizens prime targets for fraudsters who are looking to make some easy money.
The elderly are more likely to be trusting of others. They believe others will do them no harm, and they want to be polite. This makes it difficult for them to say “no” sometimes — including at times when it’s vital.
This also can lead to being exploited.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 34.9 million people over the age of 65 in the U.S. in 2000. That number is expected to increase to 52.1 million by 2020. The number is expected to be 61.7 million by 2030.
Because of these aforementioned factors, it’s not surprising that an estimated five million elderly per year are victims of financial exploitation, according to the National Center for the Prevention of Elder Abuse. It’s being considered the crime of the 21st century.
These figures are troubling, especially considering many cases are never reported to authorities. According to a Consumers Digest article “The Fleecing of America’s Elderly” from the spring of 2000, a conservative estimate states one in 14 financial abuse cases goes unreported.
The Consumers Digest article also states financial abuse consistently ranks second in most states as the most prevalent form of elder abuse, behind physical abuse.
Of the financial abuse cases reported, few are investigated, and only a handful are prosecuted or reach the court system, the Consumers Digest article stated. The U.S. Administration on Aging defines financial abuse as “the improper act or process of using an older person’s monetary resources without consent, for another’s benefit.” Michigan law describes financial exploitation as “a person who is in a relationship of trust with a vulnerable adult to obtain or attempt to obtain ... the vulnerable adult’s money or property for his/her own benefit ... through fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, or unjust enrichment.”
In William Pickering’s case, a non-family member was the one who financially exploited him. However, 60 percent of those financially abusing the elderly are adult children, according to a 1998 National Elder Abuse Incidence Study. In-home care providers are the second largest group. Because the abusers often are quite close to the victim, the victim is often unwilling to report the abuser because he/she would feel guilty.
According to the Consumers Digest article, most financial abuse victims are women and most abusers are younger men. While William Pickering’s case was the exception to this, there is one aspect of his case that is quite common — having the “caretaker” abuse his/her power of attorney rights. This is common partially because of the ease in getting a power of attorney agreement.
There is no federal law covering financial abuse of the elderly. Each state has an Adult Protective Services agency designed to prevent and address problems of the elderly. These programs were mandated by the Social Security Act in 1974. These agencies focus on providing assistance to the abused, rather than punishing the abuser.
The more this crime is reported, the better this type of abuse can be prevented in the future.
We need to stop complaining that out of fourteen cases of elder financial abuse only one is reported and take care of that one that IS reported!
Hardly a week goes by where we don't report new cases of elder financial abuse on this site and the victims complaint that nothing happens, so rather than complaint that elder abuse is not being reported, lets take care of the ones that ARE being reported !
We have been reporting the case of Clara and Dr. Fernandez elder abuse for three years now at a great sacrifice and expense in costs and privacy to the family , many crucial witnesses to the abuse have yet to be questioned!
So how about it ! Authorities isn't time you started doing your job in protecting the victims? Especially the ones that have the courage to come forward and report it ?
Friday, August 24, 2007
TRACI L. WEISENBACH, The Huron Daily Tribune