Advocates for seniors: Financial exploitation is fastest rising form of elder abuse

Philadelphia has the second highest percentage of seniors of the nation's ten largest cities.

Steve Tawa
June 22, 2018 - 2:52 pm
Joe Snyder

Steve Tawa | KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- At the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, advocates for older folks and financial institutions discussed strategies to combat elder financial abuse. Much of it centers on raising awareness.

Joe Snyder, the chair of the Philadelphia Financial Exploitation Prevention Task Force, says it's the fastest rising form of elder abuse. Philadelphia has the second highest percentage of seniors of the nation's ten largest cities. Snyder formerly spent 25 years as head of older adult protective services at Philadelphia Corporation for Aging.

"The awareness has gone up," Snyder said, "but we haven't broken down that wall that it could happen to you."

Snyder says Wells Fargo Bank presented a survey of older folks and their children, 98% of whom say the risk of exploitation increases with age.

"There's a capper to it," he said, "then they asked 'will this happen to you?' Only 10% of the older adults said yes, 24% of their children said yes." 

He says older people don't see the bad in things as others, and are generally more trusting.

In Snyder's words, "we'll never get ahead of professional scammers in boiler rooms making these calls, and we'll never be able to straighten out dysfunction in families," so they're going to where the money is, and working with the banks to help prevent elder financial abuse.

He says the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA) says "most of the abusers are family members or trusted others."

"The big three we identify are family members with drug, alcohol or mental illness," Snyder explained, "and then you just have others who are not evil, but think 'this is my money, my inheritance.'"

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner says he has a unit that focuses on issues like telephone scams, and credit card fraud.

"That is not how we should be treating our elders," Krasner said. "Whatever my office is able to do to stop that, we will."

One (New York) study shows that for every one case of financial exploitation of a senior reported, 44 go unreported. When Metlife Mature Market Institute reviewed media reports over one year, it estimated that financial exploitation is a $2.9 billion issue. Linda Mill of Ally Bank says using that 1-in-44 equation, it's a $132 billion problem.