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Jul 19, 2013 by |

US Government Accountability Office Study on Elder Financial Abuse


A recent study conducted by the United States Government Accountability Office analyzes the different forms of elder financial exploitation, and what methods federal agencies can employ to best deal with this problem. According to Marin County financial elder abuse lawyers, the GAO study indicates that the federal government has already taken preliminary steps to end elder abuse, but more work needs to be done.

            Elder financial exploitation refers to the illegal use or handling of an older adult’s funds and personal property. In recent years, this exploitation has reached epidemic proportions, one with repercussions that can be seen across the country. Elder exploitation used to fall under the jurisdiction of the state social services and criminal justice agencies, but as more and more older Americans fall victim to this financial crisis, the federal government has taken a more active role in eradicating the epidemic. The GAO study is one government measure to investigate the problem as it stands today.

            In conducting the study, members of the GAO interviewed public officials in several states with large elderly populations, including California, about the procedures in place to combat financial exploitation. In addition, the GAO interviewed officials from seven federal agencies, and experts in the field of elder abuse and exploitation. GAO reviewed laws and regulations that handle the financial responsibilities of older citizens and their family members and financial advisors.

            GAO found that older adults are susceptible to exploitation from Internet and phone scams, as well as junk mail requests, dishonest financial professionals, and untrustworthy caregivers, particularly in-home nurses and aides. One scam that has risen in popularity is the “grandparent scam,” in which victims are persuaded to send money to bail their grandchildren out of jail, or to help them with expenses. Prosecuting and preventing these scams is difficult, Marin County financial elder abuse lawyers say, because often, the scam is widespread and professionally executed, with few noticeable holes or flaws.

Another problem that contributes to the ease of scamming older adults is the victim’s mental state—some scams rely on schemes to trick adults who may lack information necessary to make a sound financial decision. Financial experts who use questionable methods or are unscrupulous with their clients’ money may be able to easily convince such consumers that they are providing a legitimate service, because of the consumer’s lack of knowledge.

In their study, GAO recommended several steps for the federal government to take to protect elderly Americans from fraudulent schemes. GAO encouraged the Department of Justice to work with local law enforcement authorities to handle interstate and even international mass marketing scams. To prevent older people from choosing the wrong financial advisors, the Securities and Exchange Commission has provided links to public websites that list the qualifications of individual financial services providers, and will work with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to distribute that information. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid will fund background checks for in-home care agencies, to prevent scamming nurses and workers from entering homes.

With the federal government involved, the Marin County elder financial abuse lawyers at Evans Law Firm, Inc. hope that older Californians will be able to better protect themselves from financial abuse and fraud.  Evans Law Firm, Inc. handles elder abuse, financial elder abuse, physical elder abuse, annuity fraud, consumer fraud class actions, insurance and banking fraud cases.  If you think that you have witnessed or are the victim of elder abuse, or financial fraud by a life insurance company, bank or individual then, contact Evans Law Firm. Inc. at 415-441-8669 for a free and confidential consultation, or email us at

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