Americans active in the financial markets urge the elderly to be careful with their money. According to a new Gallup poll, nearly 1 in 3 (32 percent) investors worry "a lot" or "a fair amount" about older family members and friends being swindled out of their savings.
"The elderly are a prime target because they often live alone, have ample financial resources and because some lack familiarity with newer forms of technology," Gallup noted.
The survey echoed a variety of recent reports highlighting a surge in phone and Internet scams targeting unsuspecting elders.
In 2012, researchers from Investor Protection Trust, a nonprofit group, found that 84 percent of experts who work with elders to monitor their finances believed that fraud was becoming more common, CNN Money reported. Fifty-eight percent of the respondents said they "encountered investment fraud or financial exploitation of seniors 'quite often' or 'somewhat often.'"
Scams in which strangers trick older Americans into providing their bank account information or family members drain joint accounts add up to billions of dollars of lost savings each year, CNN reported, noting that "research from insurance provider MetLife has found that Americans over the age of 60 lost about $2.9 billion to financial abuse in 2010 — up 12 percent from the $2.6 billion lost in 2008."
Elder fraud has become common enough to merit the attention of the government. The Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, established by President Barack Obama in 2009, calls attention to the financial exploitation of elders on its website, collecting a list of resources for older Americans hoping to spot scams.
According to the National Council on Aging, seniors can protect themselves by refusing to share financial information over the phone and signing up for direct deposits of benefit checks. Additionally, NCOA encourages the elderly to stay active in their communities and to not hesitate to ask others for help in determining if a request for information is legitimate.
On Gallup's survey, elder financial abuse ranked fifth among investors' concerns, following personal identity theft (which 57 percent of respondents worry "a lot" or "a fair amount" about), cyberattacks targeting bank accounts (47 percent), stock market volatility (42 percent) and general investment scams or frauds (41 percent).
The respondent group was composed of 474 U.S. adults who have investable assets of $10,000 or more.
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