While any American can fall victim to fraud and theft at the hands of scammers, reports have previously shown that the elderly are more vulnerable to such crimes, namely at the hands of family members. In response to this trend, social service workers, state organizations and medical professionals have announced they will combine their efforts to prevent elderly Americans from falling victim to medical fraud and identity theft, McClatchy newspapers reports.
"Our goal is to improve the communication among medical professionals, older Americans, [their] adult children and state securities regulators in order to head off financial swindles before the damage is done," Investor Protection Trust president Don Blandin told the news agency.
The groups plan to combat many types of financial abuses against the elderly and are not solely focused on identity theft and fraud. Organizations will also allocate resources towards contracting and repair scams, bad advice from insurance agents and financial professionals, abuse of guardianship, and Medicare fraud, the news agency said.
As cited by the Investor Protection Trust, one of the many groups involved in the campaign, one in five Americans over the age of 65, or 7.3 million individuals, have fallen victim to some financial crime at some point in their life. The survey also revealed that 37 percent of older Americans admit to receiving solicitations for money via phone or email and 16 percent admitted they were not confident making financial decisions on their own.
Citing a 2009 Metlife study, the news agency reports that financial abuse of American senior citizens results in an annual loss of $2.6 billion. The number only accounts for known cases, as the researchers estimate that nearly 80 percent of financial scams go unreported, the news agency added. Other studies show that financial scams can not only ruin an older American financially, but may also lead to an early death.
"In financial exploitation cases, when our victims have lost everything to someone that they trusted with their life, they tend to die shortly thereafter," elder-abuse prosecutor Page Ulrey told the news agency.
Protecting against identity theft and fraud can be better achieved by safeguarding sensitive information and refusing to give out personal data, such as Social Security numbers and financial information, to solicitors. Americans that receive a large amount of solicitations, insurance offers and charity requests should always do their research before divulging any information to ensure the group is legitimate and credible.