Michelle Singletary

Michelle Singletary is a nationally syndicated columnist for The Washington Post. Her column, "The Color of Money" is award-winning column, and is carried in more than 100 newspapers across the...

Beware of Fraud Against the Elderly

In her most recent Washington Post column, personal finance expert Michelle Singletary reports on a disturbing trend that American's senior popular needs to be aware of.

When we talk about the aging population in the United States, the conversation is often focused on who will take care of the physical needs of millions of seniors.

But there's a growing threat we also need to make our concern: financial fraud of the elderly.

One of five Americans over the age of 65 -- that's 7.3 million seniors -- has been victimized by a financial swindle, according to a newly released survey by the Investor Protection Trust, a nonprofit education organization.

This survey is particularly troubling when you consider that more than a third of people over 70 have some form of memory impairment, according to a 2008 published study by a national team of university researchers. Cognitive problems make seniors more vulnerable to fraud.

The money stolen from seniors adds up to more than $2.6 billion a year, according to a report released last year by MetLife's Mature Market Institute, the insurer's research organization.

"With the present state of the economy, older Americans are at a greater risk than ever of having their financial security threatened," said Sandra Timmermann, director of the institute.

For each case of elder fraud reported to authorities, an estimated four or more go unreported, according to MetLife. Appallingly, family members and caregivers are the perpetrators in 55 percent of the cases.

In an effort to catch the thieves, the Investor Protection Trust has joined forces with a number of organizations to create the Elder Investment Fraud and Financial Exploitation project. The organizations involved include the North American Securities Administrators Association, the National Adult Protective Services Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the National Area Health Education Center Organization and the National Association of Geriatric Education Centers.

The project centers on teaching medical professionals and adult protective services workers to identify the red flags that a senior is being financially abused. The professionals are encouraged to probe and pay attention to any changes in an elderly person's behavior or the presence of a caregiver who appears excessively protective or dominating. Using a grant from the Investor Protection Trust, clinicians and geriatrics faculty from the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston have developed a "Clinician's Pocket Guide" with questions and checklists. To download the short brochure, go to http://www.investorprotection.org.

"Our goal is to improve communication among medical professionals, older Americans, adult children and state securities regulators in order to head off financial swindles before the damage is done," said Don Blandin, president and chief executive of the trust.

To help direct professionals who might not know how to broach this topic, the pocket guide suggests saying: "We find that some older adults worry about money. May I ask you a few questions about this?"

Read the rest of the column here.

For information on how to bring Michelle Singletary to speak about finances and the economy, submit the Check Availability form at PremiereSpeakers.com/Michelle_Singletary

Don’t let rental car snafus wreck...
Posted July 14th 2015
Like many rental car customers, my husband and I declined the expensive insurance offered at the counter. We knew we were cove...

What will creating financial freedom...
Posted July 9th 2015
In 1966, Margaret McNamara took a bag of used books to four boys she was tutoring in reading in Washington. She allowed each ch...

Personal Finance Books are the Gift...
Posted December 8th 2014
Every year, someone asks me what financial books I recommend as holiday gifts to teach children or young adults about money, to...

Gift Cards No Longer Seen as Presents...
Posted December 2nd 2014
My husband and I were talking with our children about what they wanted for Christmas. All of them are in their teens, and any p...

There’s Always a Catch With ‘No...
Posted November 24th 2014
We have become a nation charmed by offers that something might be free. Especially when it comes to credit. Let's look at the ...

Sometimes, It Pays More to Rent Your...
Posted November 14th 2014
For as long as I can remember, homeownership has been a home run on the American Dream scorecard. When I graduated from colleg...

As the Holiday Shopping Season...
Posted November 5th 2014
We, the anti-consumerists, are losing the battle to curtail the consumerism that drives America, especially during the holiday ...

The Many Perils of Student Debt
Posted October 30th 2014
Someone said to me that I make too big a deal of student loan debt. I heard similar comments before the housing crisis. We now...

With the Gyrations in the Stock...
Posted October 24th 2014
Fears of a major and long-lasting crash in the stock market have been replaced - for now - by news about the Ebola virus. Nonet...

Small Steps Can Lead to Big Financial...
Posted October 7th 2014
Seeing decorations popping up everywhere reminds me of one of my favorite songs from the television feature "Santa Claus Is Com...