Grandma is an easy target.
She has some money saved up—at least more than you do—and has become more lonely and isolated in her old age, making her vulnerable for exploitation. So when she sends you out to the bank on an errand, you take a little extra withdrawal for yourself.
This isn’t a hypothetical scenario. It’s a response from one of the largest surveys on elder financial exploitation to date, which finds the people most likely to exploit the elderly for money are often the people closest to the victim.
The study, recently published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, surveyed 4,000 older adults in New York state. Of those who reported being exploited, more than half (57.9 percent) of their perpetrators were family members, and a total of 24.6 of the perpetrators were the victims’ own adult children. Friends were the next-largest category, and home-care aides were the smallest group of the known perpetrators.
Overall, 5 percent (one in 20) of those surveyed experienced at least one incident of financial exploitation since turning 60, with 2.7 percent reporting an incident within the previous year. “This rate, coupled with the exponentially growing number of elderly in the U.S., forms the basis for a burgeoning public health crisis in need of immediate attention,” the authors write.
According to the National Institute of Justice, “the United States has no national reporting mechanism to track the financial exploitation of elders,” which makes studies like this all the more important. And because the survey excluded respondents in nursing homes or with mental impairments—both are factors that may contribute additional risk for exploitation—the authors of the study even suggest that their findings might be underrepresenting the true numbers. Even so, the study concludes, “If a new disease entity were discovered that afflicted nearly one in 20 adults over their older lifetimes and differentially stuck our most vulnerable subpopulations, a public health crisis would likely be declared.”
The elderly are common targets for frauds and scams. Just this week, USA Today reported that elder abuse was one of the top two fastest-growing consumer complaints in 2013. “They are often the victims of tech alert scams, when fraudsters call and pretend to be with a company such as Apple or Microsoft and tell the victim their computer has been infected with a virus,” the story reads. Nursing homes, the places where children send their ailing parents with the hope of keeping them safe, are also sometimes scrutinized for taking advantage of their patients.
Those are examples of institutions taking advantage of senior citizens. What the General Internal Medicine study suggests is that a lot of the exploitation against the elderly takes place close to or inside of the home.
The researchers were looking for instances where the respondents felt exploited. Exploitation was defined as having experienced any of the following (from the text of the study):
1) stolen or misappropriated money or property;
2) coercion or false pretense resulting in surrendering rights, property, or signing/changing a legal document;
3) impersonation to obtain property or services;
4) inadequate contributions toward household expenses, but respondent still had enough money for necessities; and
5) respondent was destitute and did not receive necessary assistance from family/friends.
When they broke the results down by demographics, they found that these trends in elder financial exploitation echo the patterns of a lot of societal ills—they disproportionately affect minorities and the poor. Blacks in the survey experienced exploitation at rates almost three times higher than whites—9.1 percent to 3.4 percent, respectively. A similar but narrower gap exists between the rich and poor. Six and a half percent of those making under $15,000 a year experienced exploitation, while only 3.5 percent of those making more than $30,000 did.
What We're Following See More »
President Obama became a surprise topic of contention toward the end of the Democratic debate, as Hillary Clinton reminded viewers that Sanders had challenged the progressive bona fides of President Obama in 2011 and suggested that someone might challenge him from the left. “The kind of criticism that we’ve heard from Senator Sanders about our president I expect from Republicans, I do not expect from someone running for the Democratic nomination to succeed President Obama,” she said. “Madame Secretary, that is a low blow,” replied Sanders, before getting in another dig during his closing statement: “One of us ran against Barack Obama. I was not that candidate.”
It’s all about the 1% and Wall Street versus everyone else for Bernie Sanders—even when he’s talking about race relations. Like Hillary Clinton, he needs to appeal to African-American and Hispanic voters in coming states, but he insists on doing so through his lens of class warfare. When he got a question from the moderators about the plight of black America, he noted that during the great recession, African Americans “lost half their wealth,” and “instead of tax breaks for billionaires,” a Sanders presidency would deliver jobs for kids. On the very next question, he downplayed the role of race in inequality, saying, “It’s a racial issue, but it’s also a general economic issue.”
It’s been said in just about every news story since New Hampshire: the primaries are headed to states where Hillary Clinton will do well among minority voters. Leaving nothing to chance, she underscored that point in her opening statement in the Milwaukee debate tonight, saying more needs to be done to help “African Americans who face discrimination in the job market” and immigrant families. She also made an explicit reference to “equal pay for women’s work.” Those boxes she’s checking are no coincidence: if she wins women, blacks and Hispanics, she wins the nomination.
Under pressure from a judge, the State Department will release about 550 of Hillary Clinton’s emails—“roughly 14 percent of the 3,700 remaining Clinton emails—on Saturday, in the middle of the Presidents Day holiday weekend.” All of the emails were supposed to have been released last month. Related: State subpoenaed the Clinton Foundation last year, which brings the total number of current Clinton investigations to four, says the Daily Caller.