Elder abuse is defined as an intentional or negligent act that causes harm or serious risk of harm to an older adult. It’s estimated that more than 10% of seniors over the age of 65 experience some form of elder abuse each year.
Elder abuse can include physical, psychological, and sexual abuse; financial exploitation; and neglect and abandonment.
According to the 2021 Elder Fraud Report from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, more than 92,000 victims over the age of 60 reported losses totaling $1.7 billion in 2021. This figure represents a 74% increase in losses compared to just a year prior in 2020.
Victims of elder abuse are not just targeted by strangers. Family members, friends, and acquaintances can also take advantage of their relationship to defraud older Americans. An analysis supported by the National Institute of Justice found that 87.5% of elders who were victims of financial mistreatment by someone they knew did not report the crime to law enforcement. Most victims did not report their family member or friend because they didn’t want the perpetrator to get in trouble or they didn’t want publicity.
Launched in 2020, the National Elder Fraud Hotline is a free resource created by the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) for people to report fraud against anyone age 60 or older. Callers are assigned a case manager who assists them in reporting the crime and connecting them with necessary resources.
Elder abuse cases are often complex, requiring multiple resource systems to respond. Developing a multidisciplinary team (MDT) can be a solution for communities seeking to enhance their response to combat elder abuse and assist victims. Supported by OVC, the National Elder Abuse MDT Training and Technical Assistance Center provides case consultations, training, and technical assistance to MDTs throughout the country.
The Bureau of Justice Assistance-sponsored Legal Issues Related to Elder Abuse pocket guide provides law enforcement officers with brief explanations of legal concepts, documents, and tools that may be misused to commit elder abuse. The guide also details issues and actions that justice system professionals may consider if they suspect elder abuse has occurred.
Through the Elder Justice Initiative, the Department of Justice is committed to combatting all forms of elder abuse and financial exploitation through enforcement actions, training and technical assistance resources, research, victim services, and public awareness.
Visit the following pages for additional information and resources produced or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs and other federal agencies: