Although the number of elderly who are financially abused is still alarmingly high, current efforts to combat the problem seem to be achieving results, according to the Investor Protection Trust (IPT).
Seventeen percent of those age 65 or older report being the victims of financial scams, but that number is down from 20 percent who said they were victims in 2010.
Education efforts also seem to be succeeding, says IPT. In 2010, 44 percent of those over age 65 got at least two out of four questions on basic investment knowledge wrong. This year only 14 percent got two or more wrong and 51 percent answered them all correctly.
IPT reported its findings in the 2016 Elder Fraud and Financial Exploitation survey of 3.500 people, most of whom were over 65 or the adult children of elderly parents. The survey was conducted by Public Policy Polling for IPT, a nonprofit organization devoted to investor education and protection. A similar survey was conducted in 2010.
IPT conducts an Elder Fraud and Financial Exploitation Prevention Program that works with organizations, state securities offices and doctors to prevent elder financial abuse.
“Our efforts to engage doctors are working,” said Don Blandin, president and CEO of IPT, during a press conference Tuesday to release the results of the survey.
“Doctors are now more likely to flag signs that a patient is being swindled or that they are suffering from mild cognitive impairment,” Blandin said. “IPT also works with 30 state securities offices in a coalition to prevent elder exploitation. Doctors, nurses and adult children are more tuned today into the possibility of exploitation. But it is still alarming that nearly one in five are being financially exploited.”
Jim Williams, polling analyst for Public Policy Polling, added that 47 percent of the children of parents 65 or older are very or somewhat worried that their parents “have already become or will become less able to handle their personal finances over time.” That number was 40 percent in 2010.
Irving Faught, securities administrator of the Oklahoma Securities Commission, said state securities regulators see the toll that financial abuse takes every day on people who come to the commission for help.
Anyone suspecting financial exploitation of an elderly person should notify the person’s doctor, who is obligated to report it, or notify a state securities office that will investigate it, said Robert Roush, professor of geriatrics and director of the Texas Consortium Geriatrics Education Center. He labeled financial exploitation “a scourge” on the elderly.