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  • Scamming the Elderly: An Increased Susceptibility to Financial Exploitation Within and Outside of the Family

    Abuse of the elderly is a growing, and often times hidden, phenomenon which affects millions annually. “Elder abuse is present in every community, at every income level and in every social and cultural group.” It includes physical abuse, neglect, self-neglect, and financial exploitation. Although the estimated number of victims of elder abuse is high, there are no official national statistics due to the varying definitions of elder abuse, as well as the lack of a uniform reporting system throughout the states. The National Center on Elder Abuse estimates that “for every one case of elder abuse . . . [that is] reported to authorities, about five more go unreported.” Financial elder abuse has been classified by many scholars as “‘the crime of the 21st century.’” The difficulty of detecting this type of abuse suggests that it may be more prevalent than physical abuse. While many cases of financial exploitation of the elderly go unreported, “the annual financial loss by victims of elder financial abuse is estimated to be at least $2.6 billion.” When financial abuse occurs, “the health, dignity, and economic security of millions of older Americans” is breached and sometimes there is no way to mend this injury. The cost of financial exploitation surpasses that of the elderly victim’s finances; it has also been estimated to cost Americans billions of dollars annually, from healthcare costs to investigative and legal costs. Unfortunately, financial elder abuse is a crime which is “underreported, under-recognized, and under-prosecuted.”