LOS ANGELES — Between fraudulent phone calls, phishing emails, and various other online schemes, there are plenty of opportunities nowadays for older, not so tech-savvy, adults to become victims of a financial scam. Amazingly, a new study finds that it’s not far-away con artists and strangers who are more likely to prey on vulnerable seniors. Instead, acts of financial elder abuse are committed more frequently by a victim’s own family members.
Researchers at the University of Southern California utilized data collected by the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) for the study. More specifically, they focused on a NCEA hotline used as a resource for people looking to report, or seek information regarding, elder abuse of any kind. The study’s authors analyzed the collected data from the hotline, identified the most common types of reported elder abuse and profiled the most common perpetrators of such abuse.
After examining almost 2,000 calls placed between August 2014 and June 2017, researchers concluded that 42% (818 calls) alleged legitimate abuse situations. Of those cases, financial abuse was the most common, accounting for 55% (449 calls) of the abuse reports.
To the researchers’ surprise, they found that family members, not strangers, were the most common perpetrators of elder financial abuse.
In fact, family members were the most frequent perpetrators of elder abuse across all cases — 48% of abuse-related calls in which the relationship to the victim could be determined. Financial abuse was the most common family-related complaint (61%), but a number of other disturbing allegations were also prevalent, including emotional abuse (35%), physical abuse (12%), neglect (20.1%), and sexual abuse (0.3%).