Abuse of the Elderly

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18 September 2017

With baby Boomers coming off the production line in their thousands each year, the level of financial and emotional abuse is set to rise in proportion to baby boomers retiring.

I read an article in a US publication called PLOS 1 (published August 2012) describing that poor decision making is a consequence of cognitive decline amongst older persons without Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment.

Decision making is an important determinant of health and wellbeing across the lifespan but is CRITICAL in aging, when many influential decisions are made (eg intergenerational wealth transfer, end of life decisions, social security & general finance decisions).

On the ATO website, they name but a few of the scams that are reported to them as follows:
(1) Tax evasion scheme;
(2) Scammers pretending to be representing iTunes cards claiming there to be a Centrelink debt owing;
(3) Phone scammers posing as ATO officers threatening legal action if monies are not repaid; and
(4) ATO or Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions saying a warrant has been issued for their arrest, then trying to extract money.

Increasing evidence suggests that older people, even those without dementia, often make poor decisions and are selectively vulnerable to scams.

Using the USA as a bench mark for loss of money due to scams, Australians could be losing up to 6 billion annually, given that the USA loss figures amount to $100 billion annually.

A recent study completed by Professor Michael Fink, Director of Retirement Planning and Living at Texas Tech University, in the United States, measured the difference between the confidence level of financial decisions and the actual financial literacy level. The figures were scary. At age 60 to 65, the confidence level was about 70% to 75% when in actual fact their measured financial literacy was closer to 60% t0 65%. At age 75, confidence rose to 80% when in actual fact the measured competency of financial literacy was only 40%.

A friend of mine had an incident with their father ( aged 87) who was spending up to $20,000 per year on lottery tickets that were being sent to him via mail. The letters were personalised and presented in such a way that he was convinced that he was going to win the million dollars. When my friend checked with Consumer Affairs they were told that the marketing was not illegal and that little could be done to stop them.

There must be hundreds if not thousands of elderly citizens who are being fleeced by this immoral form of marketing to elderly people.

Elderly people are being taken for all they have by tele marketing asking for donations and funds for various scams. It's important that where possible, children keep an eye out for irregularities with their parents and try to assist them in not making silly decisions.

Quite often it may be difficult to stop the payments going out if the person concerned is not diagnosed with dementia. As I said before, Cognitive decline in the aging population effects their capacity to take care of their finances. This includes share investing, property management, calculations in compound inflation and important health concepts such as understanding of drug risks and Medicare.

So be on the watch for your elderly parents and their wellbeing, and don’t forget that nearly a third of all fraud on elderly is perpetrated by a relative.