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Consumer Law

Financial, Legal Advisors are Scamming the Elderly

Tales of elderly people being hoodwinked by a criminal only to face an uphill battle to be made whole—are on the rise, consumer and legal experts warn. Already targeted by phone scammers and greedy relatives, elderly Americans have a “bull’s-eye” on their backs, one Iowa assistant attorney general who specializes in elder abuse cases said, adding that the problem is only getting worse.

And while financial institutions are becoming more responsive and incorporating more safeguards to protect against elder fraud and manipulation, America’s most vulnerable face another, more insidious threat. Increasingly, it’s the professionals—the lawyers, insurers and financial advisers that the elderly trust—who are the wolves in sheep’s clothing.

In 2017, financial institutions filed 63,500 suspicious activity reports tied to the exploitation of older adults, quadruple the amount reported four years earlier, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, for a total of $1.7 billion in attempted thefts and losses. That estimate, however, is a tiny fraction of the real total. The reports “may account for less than 2%” of actual incidents, the CFPB says. Estimates of total losses ranged as high as $36.5 billion, according to one financial services firm.

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