Consumer Alert! 1 in 5 Older Americans Have Been Swindled
Life + Money

Consumer Alert! 1 in 5 Older Americans Have Been Swindled


Almost one in five seniors have been ripped off financially, a major concern given that more than three-quarters of older Americans handle their finances by themselves.

Seventeen percent of Americans 65 and over were led into an inappropriate investment, received unreasonably high fees for financial services or were victims of outright fraud, according to a survey of seniors and their adult children from the Investor Protection Trust. That is slightly down from 20 percent in 2010.

More than two out of five older Americans showed at least one red flag for financial victimization. Over a third received calls or mailings asking for money, lotteries or other scams. One in 20 seniors didn’t feel confident making big financial decisions by themselves, while 4 percent didn’t understand the financial decisions made for them.

Related: 10 Tips to Protect Yourself from Scammers This Tax Season

Other warning signs include unaffordable loans or gifts; pressure to give away money or change their wills; trouble paying bills because the bills are confusing; and disappearing money.

Three in ten older Americans said they are vulnerable to fraud for because they are financially responsible for an adult child or spouse; isolated from other people; in bereavement; depressed or have other mental problems; or are dependent on someone else for day-to-day care.

The survey did offer two silver linings. Doctors of seniors brought up personal finance issues and mental comprehension concerns with their patients’ adult children more often than in 2010.

“While it is still alarming to see that nearly one out of five older Americans have been victims of financial swindles, it is encouraging that doctors and adult children are more tuned into this problem,” said Don Bladin, president and CEO of Investor Protection Trust, in a statement. “Doctors and the nurses who work with seniors are playing an important ‘first responder’ role in spotting older Americans who have been or are being victimized by investment fraud and other financial exploitation.”

Second, efforts to educate elderly Americans about investment scams appear to be helping. Half of the seniors surveyed were able to answer four basic investment questions correctly, while only 14 percent got two or more answers wrong. That’s a vast improvement over 2010 when 44 percent gave two or more incorrect answers.