Don't let abuse disrupt your retirement or your retirement planning.
Older Americans lose nearly $3 billion per year to elderly financial abuse, according to a MetLife study of the problem.
Half of the crimes are perpetrated by strangers, while 34 percent of the abuse is delivered by friends and family. Exploitation by the business sector accounted for most of the rest.
Women were nearly twice as likely to be victims of elder financial abuse as men. Most victims were between the ages of 80 and 89, lived alone and required some help with either health care or home maintenance.
More than 60 percent of the crooks were men between the ages of 30 and 59. They were able to scam the most money during holiday seasons.
The most frequent crimes by scammers who knew their victims were forged checks, stolen credit cards, pilfered bank accounts, and persuading victims to transfer assets. Strangers engaged in burglary, purse snatchings and physical assaults. Sandra Timmermann, director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute, says, "In almost all instances, financial exploitation is achieved through deceit, threats and emotional manipulation of an elder."
Attorney Stephen Peck, who specializes in elder law, offers these protection strategies for people living in retirement:
- Stay connected. People who live alone and in isolation are most likely to be victims.
- Put your financial affairs in order. Financial good housekeeping will make you less vulnerable.
- See a doctor regularly. Your doctor can protect you from health scams and spot any physical abuse.
- Beware of needy people. People with histories of substance abuse are most likely to be abusers.
- Choose caregivers and other service people carefully. Don't allow people into your house who aren't trustworthy.
- Keep valuables in a safe place. If there's nothing worth stealing in your home, you're less likely to become a victim.