When you think of the villains who defraud older people, you might picture crooks hacking into bank accounts or selling bogus stocks. But don’t be misled.
The real scoundrels might be sitting at your next family gathering, looking as innocent as folks in a Norman Rockwell painting. Roughly 6 out of 10 cases of elder financial abuse are committed by relatives, according to a large-scale 2014 study. And about 3 out of 10 instances can be traced to friends, neighbors or home care aides. In other words, 90 percent of perpetrators of fraud are known to their victims.
Even scarier: The closer the tie between perpetrator and victim, the greater the damage. A detailed study of elder financial abuse in Utah found that the amount stolen by people who knew their victim averaged $116,000 — nearly triple the haul taken by strangers. Criminals within the family got even more: $148,000. And the thieves who stole the most money — $262,000, on average — were the victims’ children.
Maybe you thought such thefts occurred only among the rich and famous — think of Brooke Astor, the New York heiress whose son was convicted of swindling her.