WASHINGTON, Aug. 22 (UPI) -- One-in five U.S. seniors age 65 and older were victimized by a financial swindle in 2010 and a survey of experts indicates the problem is getting worse.
The Investor Protection Trust and Investor Protection Institute surveyed 756 state securities regulators, financial planners, healthcare professionals, social workers, adult protective services, law enforcement officials, elder law attorneys and academics, responding to questions posed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in Washington.
Dr. Mark Lachs of the Weill Cornell Medical College said elder financial abuse is not only about financial exploitation: It is a major public health problem.
"When older Americans are financially exploited and there are no resources left for their care, these individuals effectively become wards of the state and the taxpayers pay," Lachs said in a statement.
The survey found most seniors did not have the information they need to pick a financial adviser to help them protect their savings, while 75 percent said senior swindles were a very serious problem and 78 percent said older Americans were very vulnerable to investment fraud/financial exploitation.
Seventy-nine percent said theft or diversion of funds or property by family members was the top problem. Forty-nine percent named theft or diversion of funds or property by caregivers, and 47 percent said financial scams perpetrated by strangers was the top problem.
Don Blandin of the Investor Protection Trust said the agency has trained more than 3,000 U.S. medical professionals to spot impaired mental capacity that can leave seniors vulnerable to financial abuse.