Currently, 25 million people are over the age of 65. In less than 20 years, when the bulk of the baby boomers have reached that age, there will be 77 million people over 65. That fact alone makes it imperative that medical personnel, families and financial planners know what characteristics make an elderly person vulnerable to being financially swindled.

The Investor Protection Trust and a group of other organizations charged with protecting the elderly from abuse, whether it is physical, financial or any other kind, conducted a survey about financial vulnerabilities in older people. From that survey, a Clinicians Pocket Guide was developed to educate doctors, nurses and other medical personnel about the warning signs of financial vulnerability.

The Trust has an ongoing relationship with financial planners and the Financial Planning Association to help educate investors through its "How can I Afford Retirement?" Program at public libraries.

"The Clinicians Pocket Guide is also useful for financial planners who want to know what to look for and who to turn to if they suspect a client is being financially taken advantage of by someone," says Don Blandin, president of the Investor Protection Trust.

The study, availability of the pocket guide and the launching of the national Elder Investment Fraud and Financial Exploitation prevention campaign were announced June 15, which was World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

Problems to look out for are social isolation, changes in appearance, depression or alcohol or drug abuse, the guide says. A checklist for the elderly themselves asks if they are confused by bills, if people are pressuring them to give money away and if money seems to be disappearing from their accounts.

Whoever suspects financial abuse should contact the North American Securities Administrators Association to find the proper state agency to report it to, says Texas Securities Commissioner Denise Voigt Crawford, president of the national association. The outreach to medical personal was created in Texas and has been under way there for awhile already and some dramatic arrests and prosecutions for fraud have been conducted, Crawford says.

"We now know that a shockingly large number of older Americans are already victims of financial swindles and millions more are in danger of being exploited in such a fashion," Blandin says. "Given that front-line medical professionals who deal every day with older Americans are ideally positioned to spot the impaired mental capacity that can leave seniors vulnerable to financial abuse, our new program seeks to inform doctors, nurses and others about the warning signs of elder investment fraud and financial exploitation."

Changes in the brain as people age make them more willing to take financial risks and seniors who are functioning in every other sense can have mild cognitive dysfunction that impairs their financial capabilities, he says.

According to the survey of 2,022 American adults, including 590 adults over 65 and 706 adult children with a parent over 65, half of older Americans exhibit at least one of the warning signs of financial vulnerability, such as being approached regularly by people who want money or who promote lottery schemes. Some 44% of those over 65 answered incorrectly on at least two of four basic financial questions. Only 5% of the adult children who are in touch with a parent's doctor say the healthcare professional ever mentions the handling of money.

Additional information and copies of the pocket guide are available at