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Financial Crimes Against the Elderly

NCJ Number
Kelly Dedel Johnson
Date Published
September 2003
88 pages
This document discusses the problem of financial crimes against the elderly.
Financial crimes against the elderly fall under two categories: fraud committed by strangers, and financial exploitation by relatives and caregivers. These categories sometimes overlap in terms of target selection and the means used to commit the crime. The differences in the offender-victim relationships suggest different methods for analyzing and responding to the problem. Fraud involves deliberately deceiving the victim with the promise of goods, services, or other benefits that are nonexistent, unnecessary, never intended to be provided, or grossly misrepresented. The frauds typically occur within a few interactions. Offenders generally use a small subset of frauds against the elderly, including prizes and sweepstakes, charity contributions, loans and mortgages, health remedies, and confidence games. Unlike strangers, relatives and caregivers often have a position of trust and an ongoing relationship with the elderly. Financial exploitation occurs when the offender steals, withholds, or otherwise misuses their elderly victims’ money, property, or valuables for personal advantage or profit, to the disadvantage of the elder. Their methods include borrowing money and not paying it back; signing or cashing pension or social security checks without permission; and forcing the elder to part with resources or to sign over property. Financial exploitation of the elderly may also occur in concert with other types of elder abuse, including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse; and neglect. Understanding the factors that contribute to the problem of elder abuse will help police departments frame their own local analysis questions, determine good effectiveness measures, recognize key intervention points, and select appropriate responses. Factors contributing to financial crimes against the elderly include underreporting, victim vulnerabilities, victim facilitation, revictimization, and offender characteristics. It is important to identify the types of fraud currently operating, the likely targets, the means used to commit the fraud, and the factors that may prevent victims from reporting it. It is important to understand how offenders gain access to the victims’ funds, what the nature of the offender-victim relationship is, and what resources are available to support and protect the elderly. Appendix, 51 endnotes, 67 references