NEW YORK (TheStreet) — One of the most nefarious forms of financial fraud – stealing from elderly people – is back in the news, and the news isn't good. An AICPA PFP Trends Survey released Tuesday shows that "financial fraud against the elderly is on the rise," with 47% of U.S. financial planners surveyed saying they "have seen an increase in elder fraud or abuse in the last five years."
The emotional toll of being victimized really takes a toll on senior citizens, AICPA says, with 37% of the 266 financial professionals it surveyed saying they saw a "substantial" emotional impact on the elderly fraud victims they advised. Maybe that's because 72% of elderly fraud or abuse victims felt taken advantage of by family members (although phone and email scams were most prevalent, at 79%).
"For elderly individuals, being a victim of financial fraud or abuse can be emotionally devastating," says Ted Sarenski, a certified public accountant and an AICPA member. "The impact is compounded when the perpetrator is a member of their own family or a friend."
"One of the unique challenges for CPA financial planners working with elderly clients is balancing their desire to help their family members financially with the need to ensure that they have the means to continue to meet their own expenses," Sarenski says.
Erik J. Broel, an attorney at Broel Law Group, in Marietta, Ga., has experience with the victims as well. "Unfortunately, not everyone who preys on an senior is outside the family," Broel says. "In the course of helping families through settling their loved one's estate, it's really not uncommon for us to find a family member who was supposed to be helping the senior with their finances abused that position of trust and used the senior's money for their own purposes."