One out of every five older Americans are financial swindle victims



More than 7.3 million older Americans — one out of every five people over the age of 65 — have been victimized by a financial swindle, according to a new survey by Investor Protection Trust (IPT).

That statistic is why a new partnership was formed — among IPT, the North American Securities Administrators Association, the National Adult Protective Services Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the National Area Health Education Center Organization and the National Association of Geriatric Education Centers — to offer an educational campaign.

The Elder Investment Fraud and Financial Exploitation prevention initiative will train medical professionals to spot older Americans, who are vulnerable because of mild cognitive impairment.

Because medical professionals deal frequently with older people, they are ideally positioned to identify victims. They will work together to refer cases to each other, whether it is to report fraud to securities regulators, convey abuse to Adult Protective Services workers or refer a patient to a clinician for further medical evaluation.

“Our goal is to improve the communication among medical professionals, older Americans, adult children and state securities regulators in order to head off financial swindles before the damage is done,” said IPT President and CEO Don Blandin.

Of particular concern for exploitation are seniors with mild cognitive impairment who can perform most daily functions, but have trouble or become confused with some tasks, such as following their medicine regimen and managing their finances.

A 2008 Duke University study found that about 35 percent of the 25 million people over age 71 in the U.S. either have mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease. This makes them especially vulnerable to financial exploitation, including investment fraud.

Key findings of the survey of 2,022 American adults — including 706 adult children with at least one parent aged 65 or older and 590 adults who were aged 65 or older and had children — include the following:

•Half of older Americans exhibit one or more of the warning signs of current financial victimization. For example, more than one out three seniors (37 percent) are currently being pitched by “people (who) are calling me or mailing me asking for money, lotteries, and other schemes,” while a much lower 19 percent of adult children believe that their parents are being pressured in such a fashion.

•Almost half of those aged 65 or over (44 percent) got at least two out of four questions wrong about basic investment knowledge.

•About one out of three older Americans (31 percent) said they are vulnerable in one or more ways to potential financial victimization.

•Only 5 percent of adult children in touch with their parents’ doctors report “the healthcare providers ever mention[ing] any concerns about your parents handling of money or relayed any concern from your parent about handling money.” However, of that same group, nearly 20 percent report the health care provider has mentioned concerns about “your parents’ mental comprehension.” Only 2 percent of Americans aged 65 or older say  their healthcare provider has ever asked about “how you are handling money issues or problems.”

•Four out of 10 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.”  Among those over the age of 65, more than a third (36 percent) are “very” or “somewhat” worried about being less able to handle money issues over time.

State securities regulators and participating medical professionals now have available the project’s Clinician’s Pocket Guide and an informational brochure for patients/investors. The pocket guide — which outlines common red flags, how to ask about a patient’s financial capacity and what types of referral may be needed — can be used to train medical staff, as well as functioning as a handy reference card. The brochure tells how to protect against elder financial fraud and where to get help.

With a grant from the Investor Protection Trust, clinicians and geriatrics faculty from the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas developed the program.

Information was gathered from the Investor Protection Trust report and press release.