Today is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. And while it’s a sunny June day here in Washington DC, the topic of Elder Financial Exploitation is a forecast of some very rough weather ahead.
The problem of financial exploitation of seniors is scary, and is getting scarier. Today, there are 40 million Americans over the age of 65 — the largest in history, and the number will grow over the next ten years. According to the True Link Report on Elder Abuse, up to $36 billion (with a “b”) is lost by seniors in various forms of financial exploitation, and $17 billion of that is done through deceptive-but-legal tactics that are designed to promote financial mistakes by seniors. Also, about half of the exploitation happens by other family members, which is disturbing and depressing. The generation that is being scammed is especially vulnerable, since it is a polite generation (many do not want to hang up on phone scammers); trusting people (may fall prey to internet scams); and sometimes cognitively impaired (which can make someone especially helpless). Sadly, there are literally call centers that are set up to scam seniors out of money, which can end up in horrifying results.
The CFPB recently posted guidelines and a report for financial institutions to help fight this problem. The webinar they hosted on May 25 was a very helpful walkthrough of these guidelines. Other government institutions are also paying more attention to this problem. It is clear to me that financial institutions are going to be a key defense for combating this problem. However, not all financial institutions have quality resources available to them for their employees, older customers/members, and for adult caregivers of the elderly. Many employees of financial institutions end up having three jobs: being a teller, a social worker, and a family counselor. It is a lot to ask of them.
We are EVERFI are working hard on this problem right now. Given the size and scope of this complex issue, it is clear that there will not be one single solution that eradicates this issue, but our goal is to make a big dent in it. Just like our programs for adult financial education, we are going to partner with financial institutions, help them on the front lines, and get them the tools and resources they need. I am so proud that we are taking on this terrifying, growing, and very personal issue.
To ‘celebrate’ World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, please take time to spread the word about Elder Financial Exploitation. Know that the storm is coming. But also know that EVERFI will be there to help you weather it.