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One in five American seniors have been the victim of financial fraud

Posted on June 15, 2016

HOUSTON (June 15, 2016) – In recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day and in support of our nation’s growing senior population, Money Management International (MMI), the nation’s largest nonprofit credit counseling and financial education organization, urges seniors and their families to take proactive steps to safeguard against all forms of elder abuse, including financial exploitation and fraud.

“Seniors face a unique set of risks, especially where financial abuse is concerned,” said MMI spokesperson Jo Kerstetter. “They may have accumulated wealth, but may lack the experience or knowledge to confidently manage that wealth on their own, leading them to rely on others. This is especially true if they are a widower or widow who didn’t regularly manage the family finances before the loss of a spouse. Seniors are also more likely to have a disability or dependency that makes them more vulnerable to exploitation.”

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, over five million older Americans are abused, neglected, or exploited each year, though many experts believe that number may be as much as 20 times higher when accounting for unreported cases. Meanwhile, seniors are defrauded upwards of $3 billion every year, according to the most recent estimate from MetLife.

Sadly, most financial elder abuse is committed by family members, including children and spouses. Signs that financial elder abuse has occurred may include:

  • Bank account withdrawals and charges the victim cannot explain
  • Unpaid/overdue bills, despite the victim seemingly having sufficient funds
  • Ongoing financial arrangements that the victim does not understand or recall agreeing to
  • Missing property
  • Potentially forged signatures on checks and other financial documents

If you suspect that you or someone you know has been the victim of financial elder abuse, don’t hesitate to contact your local police department. Additionally, you can use the ElderCare Locator at ElderCare.gov to find appropriate resources in your community.

“Ultimately, the first line of defense against financial fraud is education,” said Kerstetter. “The better equipped we are to manage our personal finances, the less reliant we become on advisors and caregivers who may or may not have our best interests at heart. If you are unable to manage your finances on your own, you need to have a team with checks and balances. A solid estate plan is a great place to start.”

MMI is proud to offer a variety of programs and services geared towards improving the financial wellness and stability of seniors, and is actively seeking new partnership opportunities in an effort to strengthen and broaden this spectrum of solutions. In addition to financial workshops, webinars, eBooks, and educational articles, MMI also offers debt and budget counseling, credit report reviews, reverse mortgage (or HECM) counseling and representative payee services through CrissCross (CrissCross.org), a division of MMI.

About Money Management International
Money Management International (MMI) is a nonprofit, full-service credit counseling agency, providing confidential financial guidance, financial education, counseling and debt management assistance to consumers since 1958. MMI helps individuals and families deal with unmanageable debts and improve overall financial health through personalized one-on-one counseling programs, including debt and budget, foreclosure prevention, student loans, credit report review, and bankruptcy. Most counseling is available by appointment in branch offices and 24/7 by telephone and internet. Services are available in English or Spanish. To learn more, call 866.864.8995 or visit MoneyManagement.org.