Elder financial abuse is a growing problem - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Elder financial abuse is a growing problem

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

"I never thought this type of thing would happen..."

What happened to Taylor two years ago is happening to millions of elderly Americans every year; elderly financial abuse.

In Taylor's case, a trusted caregiver ran up the balance on Taylor's credit card. Taylor found out about it and confronted the man.

"I asked him what he had done and why he did it, and all the good things that he worked with on.  He was very sad about it, all that.  Unfortunately he wasn't sad enough," said Taylor.

Taylor fired the caregiver and eventually got all of his money back.

He was lucky but a University of Memphis law professor's father was not.

Andrew McClurg says a 38-year-old Florida woman swindled his 93-year-old father out of $90,000 over a 10-month period. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates victims of elder financial abuse lose $3 billion a year.
     
Many of them are impaired, they're lonely.  There's one new study that says they're psychologically vulnerable to financial exploitation because of depression, low social need fulfillment, meaning they don't really know what they're place in life is anymore, they've lost their loved one, they've outlived them.

And they're usually targeted by people they know.

The National Center on Elder Abuse says 90-percent of the abusers are family members or trusted others. He also says the crimes rarely come to light that only one in every 44 cases is ever reported, much less prosecuted.

One reason: the victim's shame.

Another reason: difficulty in prosecuting the cases.
     
This is why McClurg has proposed stronger language in state laws that would create a presumption of exploitation against perpetrators and make it easier to prosecute the cases in court.

"Situation where an older adult, 65 or older, has given away a large sum of money for nothing in return, to someone he or she has not known very long," says McClurg.

 McClurg's dad died two months after that 38-year-old woman pled guilty to swindling him. He hopes Florida, and other states, will adopt his proposals to toughen up elder financial abuse laws so that his father's death will not have been in vain.
     
"Here's a person, who stole $90,000, paid back $50,000 when she pled guilty, served no jail time, got no terms of probation," says McClurg.
 
Right now, there are more than 40 million Americans over the age of 65 and that number is growing, as baby boomers age.

Five-hundred-thousand cases of elder financial abuse are reported each year but only one in every 44 cases is actually reported.

On Jan. 8, 2014, the Plough Foundation will present a discussion on this topic at the University of Memphis. Among the panelist for this public discussion will be Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich and McClurg, a U of M law professor.

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