The rate of elder financial exploitation across the globe has more than doubled since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with that count likely an underestimate as only one in 44 older adult victims report to the authorities that they have been targeted, according to a new report by AARP.
The association collaborated with University of Chicago researchers to analyze more than 100 sources of data on elder financial exploitation. They found that family members were the major culprits, stealing on average twice as much money from the elderly as strangers. The fact that family members are involved is probably a major reason why so few cases of elder exploitation are reported, they said. Still, the researchers noted that scams targeting older individuals are on the rise. “Smishing” efforts—in which perpetrators pose as banks and other legitimate businesses in texts to gain access to personal information and money— increased 58% in the U.S. in 2021. Complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about peer-to-peer payment fraud are also increasing.
Many financial institutions have educated consumers and their employees and have used technology to stop elder financial exploitation, the researchers noted. ABA offers an online course on elder financial exploitation. In addition, the association’s Safe Banking for Seniors offers resources for banks seeking to educate customers about the problem.