NEW YORK ( MainStreet)--Elderly Americans have money. Their numbers grow daily. In some cases their mental capacities are diminishing. "It a horrible perfect storm for scams," said lawyer Steve Weisman, who teaches elder planning at Bentley University in Waltham, Mass. "The elderly are 12% of the population and 30% of the scam victims." The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau estimates the extent of elder fraud at $2.9 billion - but the federal agency acknowledges that for every case that comes to the attention of law enforcement, 43 go unrecognized.
Saddest is that, in many cases, elder fraud could be stopped early, perhaps even prevented, if financial institutions took a hard look at transactions involving vulnerable elderly customers, say the experts. Yes, bankers sometimes are crooks, but the institutions also have account histories, going back decades in many cases, with their senior customers and that information could be used to quickly flag irregularities. "Financial institutions could play an important role here," said Steve Starnes, a financial advisor with Savant Capital Management, who said he has worked with a number of clients suffering serious cognitive decline - which, he stressed, is when most elder fraud occurs. He added that - between financial institutions and more alert and involved family members - probably 90% of elder fraud could be stopped.
"Banks should be doing this as a matter of course," said Weisman, the attorney. "It's easy, and it works. The banking industry needs to meet its responsibility. That would help limit what has become a very, very serious problem." --Written by Robert McGarvey for MainStreet