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Survey Finds Elderly Frequent Targets of Financial Fraud
Published Friday, October 20, 2017

As millions of Americans retire over the next decade, financial crimes and abuse against the elderly are occurring at an alarming rate, according to the results of a survey released today by the Cooperative Credit Union Association (CCUA), a trade group representing credit unions. And even as all Americans encounter scams with increasing regularity, few financial consumers are taking steps to improve their financial literacy in the digital age.

Sixty-seven percent of those identifying themselves as a caretaker reported an elder being targeted with fraud; more than a quarter of elders, at 28percent, had also fallen victim to at least one financial scam.

The survey of 1,171 Americans  was conducted between Sept. 12 and Sept. 18, 2017, and found that of those targeted, most were contacted by email (53 percent), while 49 percent were contacted by telephone, 16 percent via text message and 16 percent by postal mail.

Last year, 33 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico addressed financial exploitation of elderly and vulnerable adults in their legislative sessions, according to the National Council of State Legislatures.

Close to half of caregivers, at 44 percent, said their elders had no response plan in place in case of a fraud or identity theft incident. In fact, a quarter of respondents said that they had not even discussed financial abuse with their elder relative or friend. More than one third (39 percent) said they would characterize the elder they assist as "not at all" or only "somewhat" financially literate.

"While regulators are working hard to address the scourge of financial fraud, education is key, particularly with hundreds of millions of Americans' personal information readily available to criminals," says Paul Gentile, president and CEO of CCUA. "All financial consumers need to take steps to protect themselves financially and digitally, including by being aware of the latest trends in frauds and scams."

Nearly a third of all Americans are worried about encountering financial fraud within the next five years. But despite widespread news coverage of cybercrime, only 17 percent of respondents said they had taken a financial literacy course themselves in the past five years, and only four percent said the elder in their care had taken such a course.

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