WASHINGTON — Federal regulators have launched an investigation into the financial abuse of the elderly, citing a new report that advisers, planners, family members and others were ripping off seniors more than ever.
Americans over 60 lost at least $2.9 billion in 2010 to financial exploitation — ranging from simple home repair scams to complex insurance swindles. That figure was up 12 percent from 2008, according to a study made public Thursday by MetLife Mature Market Institute, the National Committee for Prevention of Elder Abuse and Virginia Tech University.
The rise in abusive tactics led the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to begin looking into the types of scams affecting older Americans and coming up with the best ways to prevent them. One focus will be on the credentials of people who tout themselves as financial advisers.
“The silent crime of financially exploiting the elderly is widespread, and it is devastating. It is critical for us to act,” Richard Cordray, the agency’s director, said at a White House forum Thursday ahead of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
Scams have increased as the economy has struggled. Surveys made public this week by the nonprofit Investor Protection Trust found that 84 percent of experts who deal with financial exploitation of the elderly said the problem has worsened.