Vulnerability to Financial Elder Abuse

All older Americans have a vulnerability to financial elder abuse, but there are certain circumstances that make someone more likely to be scammed. An online survey, from The Institute of Gerontology, is one to way to help older adults (or their caregivers) assess their risk of being exploited based on how they make financial decisions. According to Peter Lichtenberg, Director of the Institute of Gerontology at Wayne State University, one (1) out of every twenty (20) older adults in the U.S. is a victim of financial exploitation, losing an average of $80,000 to $186,000.

Nearly half of these crimes are committed by someone the older adult knows and trusts, like a relative or caregiver. Click here to take the online survey and see why it’s critical to protect older adults from financial exploitation.

It is hard to ascertain the exact number of people affected by financial exploitation because studies show that elder abuse is underreported. However, one study found that monetary loss from financial elder abuse could be close to $3 billion a year. 

Experts have found that there are certain risk factors that can help indicate when someone is more likely to fall prey to a financial scam. The Institute of Gerontology at Wayne State University, found that older adults’ physical and mental health, along with their family and friend network, help predict their financial vulnerability. 

Financial Fraud Resources

Lichtenberg has created the website,, with resources for professionals, older adults, and family members to assess whether someone is at risk. He provides trainings for caregivers on how to determine if a loved one is experiencing cognitive decline and how to spot financial mismanagement.

The website also includes a financial vulnerability survey that assesses a person’s risk of exploitation by asking 17 targeted questions. At the end of the survey, participants get a low, moderate, or high risk assessment with additional resources to direct older adults and caregivers on how to get help. 

Additionally, for professionals such as attorneys, financial advisors, bankers or accountants, the Financial Decision Tracker, a 10-question interview, examines a specific financial decision made by an older adult to assess his or her financial judgment, vulnerability to theft and scams, and whether financial predation may have taken place. Within this survey, Lichtenberg states, “Cognitive impairment and financial exploitation often go hand-in-hand. Professionals working with older adults can help prevent financial exploitation while documenting for compliance and risk management that proper assessments were done prior to the transaction.”

AARP is an excellent and trusted organization already serving the senior community indicating losses are highest when a fiduciary is to blame.

In conclusion, as an experienced Elder Law and Estate Planning Attorney working with hundreds of ‘growing older’ clients, I implore each and every one to follow financial protocol and take extreme caution starting with A Plan.

Is it time to start your plan? The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) Elder Care Matters Logo The Mass National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA)