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Older adult financial abuse is becoming an increasingly more pervasive and costly problem affecting victims, their families and our nation as a whole. In 2010 alone, older adults lost a total of $2.9 billion as a result of financial fraud and scams. As the older adult population in the U.S. continues to expand in both numbers and diversity, so will the opportunities for unscrupulous individuals to take advantage of the wealth that many older adults have accumulated through their lifetime. Older adults tend to have more assets and face increasing levels of economic vulnerability for a variety of reasons. These factors make older adults an easy and inviting target for financial scams and abuses perpetrated by strangers, professionals and even their own family members. An estimated 1 in 5 older adults has been the victim of financial fraud. Too many of these victims are stripped of their assets and left with little to live on, often turning to federal and state benefits to cover daily expenses. Many of these victims see very little of their money returned even after the perpetrator is caught, and even more worrisome, experts believe most victims do not report the crimes. Financial losses due to fraud and abuse can undermine the ability of older persons to continue to live in their own homes and afford their long-term care needs. This kind of financial stress can take a great toll on older adults. Many older individuals experience health problems resulting from feelings of fear, shame and worthlessness that can lead to serious depression and even physical ailments—because of financial stress. Perhaps worse is the loss of trust older adults develop in others and themselves after being the victims of financial fraud.
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