Karen A. Roberto, director of the Center for Gerontology at Virginia Tech, found of the 1,128 news articles on elder abuse published from November 2010 through January 2011, 31 percent dealt with abuse of a financial nature -- the largest amounts involving family and friends.
"Our findings support what service providers have long suspected, older adults are particularly vulnerable to financial abuse during the holidays," Roberto said in a statement. "This might be due to the increase in the frequency of visitors in- and-out of their homes, money flowing more freely, and distractions that take them out of their normal routines."
The study determined older Americans are losing $2.9 billion annually to elder financial abuse, a 12 percent increase from the $2.6 billion estimated in 2008.
"A trend, that perhaps is a reflection of the state of the economy," Roberto said.
Elderly women, especially those ages 80-89, were nearly twice as likely as men to fall victim to financial abuse, perhaps because they often lived alone and frequently required some level of assistance with healthcare or home maintenance, Roberto said.
Nearly 60 percent of perpetrators were men ages 30-59. In almost all cases reported, financial abuse was achieved through deceit, threats and emotional manipulation of the elder, the study said.