What is financial elder abuse? How common is financial elder abuse?


According to the United States Census Bureau (2008), there are more than 52 million individuals 60-years-old and over in the United States. The rate of financial exploitation of the elderly is extremely high, with 1 in 20 older adults indicating some form of perceived financial mistreatment occurring in the recent past. That is 2.6 million individuals.

Financial elder abuse is the illegal or improper use of an elder’s funds, property or assets. There are two types of financial elder abuse:

  1. Exploitation by primary contacts: This occurs when people the victim trusts use that reliance to deprive them of their money or possessions. Property offenses range from living with the elder relative until their money is exhausted to coercing the victim to transfer their property, including real estate, to the perpetrator.
  1. Fraud by secondary contacts: This occurs when victim and offender have had no long-term relationship. Telemarketing fraud, home repair fraud, and confidence games are the main techniques strangers use to gain access to elders’ finances.

Social isolation is a factor that predisposes elderly adults to becoming victims of financial crime. Since physical health tends to decline in older adulthood, the result is a loss of independence that makes it difficult for elders to maintain social interactions. Without social interactions, elders have no social support and may start feeling lonely. As a coping strategy, elderly individuals use telephone contact as a link to people who can give them emotional and social support. Unfortunately, it is telephone contact that increases elders’ vulnerability to fraud. Indeed, telemarketing fraud is a prevalent crime in the older adult population.

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