More than 200,000 scams and financial abuse cases targeting elders are reported to authorities every year, and most experts agree that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Last year Comparitech, a pro-consumer website, analyzed and extrapolated data from government reports and registries to uncover the true cost of elder fraud in the U.S. Comparitech estimates 7.86 million cases of elder fraud occur in the U.S. annually resulting in $148 billion in losses.
Elder financial exploitation is defined as the misappropriation or abuse of financial control in a relationship where there is an expectation of trust, resulting in harm to the elder victim. Comparitech’s estimates show $6.3 billion in damages are reported to authorities. Only one in 23.5 incidents of elder fraud are reported to authorities, according to a 2011 report from the New York City Department for the Aging and Cornell University.
To calculate the full scope of the problem, Comparitech aggregated data from multiple studies on elder fraud in every state, including the number of reports to authorities and average loss per case. They then used those numbers to estimate the total number of cases and total damages in each state, adjusted for the proportion of unreported cases. Due to a lack of accurate reporting in every state from Adult Protective Services, they used averages from other states to fill in the gaps for the number of cases reported and the dollar amounts lost.
In all 50 states, losses due to elder fraud total $148.6 billion each year. The average loss per case is $17,869. Deposit accounts were the most common product involved (57.9 percent), followed by debit cards (26.2 percent) and credit cards (6.9 percent). The report shows an average of 25.3 percent of internet crimes relate to those over 60 but the same age group accounts for almost 35 percent of the dollar amount lost.
The top five states with the highest estimated rate of elder fraud were Colorado, Nevada, Delaware, Missouri, and Minnesota. Colorado is home to 1.16 million people over 60, and 23.6 percent of them have been targeted for elder fraud. Comparitech estimates that more than 272,900 elders are affected each year, losing an estimated $2.75 billion.
Elders in Nevada lose an estimated $2.45 billion to fraud per year, affecting more than one-fifth of the population. Comparitech estimates the number of elder fraud cases at over 133,000. According to a 2019/20 Elder Abuse Report, the most common perpetrator was a child (21.9 percent). Read Comparitech’s “The United States of Elder Fraud” for a closer look at elder fraud report figures, amounts lost and estimates by state, methodology, stats, and sources.