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Financial Crimes Against the Elderly

The elderly are the fastest growing segment of our society and they are also an important part of our country's economy. We are living longer but we as a society do not always recognize this population as being at risk. America's growing senior population is uniquely vulnerable to a broad range of exploitation and abuse. Financial crimes in particular are targeted at seniors with alarming frequency, and are all too often successful.

For a number of reasons it is hard to measure how widespread the problem is. States vary in their definition of "elderly," there is no national repository of crime statistics like the FBI uniform crime reports or the national victimization survey specific to elder financial abuse, and there is widespread agreement that fraud in general is dramatically underreported. The few existing studies of consumer fraud estimate that between 20 to 60 percent of adult Americans report being a victim or attempted victim of fraud. In 1998, the National Center on Elder Abuse estimated that nearly one third of all elder abuse cases involved financial exploitation. In 2000, the US Senate Special Committee on Aging reported $40 billion in losses to telemarketing fraud.

Over the past year, The COPS Office has invested nearly $2 million nationwide to address this major crime problem. The COPS Office is expanding its support of the National Sheriffs Association for the national Triad program. The Triad program partners law enforcement and senior citizens together to reduce crime and the fear of crime. COPS funding will be used to expand and enhance the Triad model nationwide by increasing the number of communities that participate in Triad and by increasing the number of training opportunities and scope of national support programs. The COPS Office is also providing assistance to Virginia Attorney General's office to expand their state Triad program. And, COPS is providing major funding for the Iowa Elderly Fraud Prevention Program to increase the resources devoted to prosecuting those who victimize senior citizens.

The COPS Office has also worked hard to ensure that the best knowledge on addressing this crime problem is available to the field. In 2004, COPS produced a practitioner oriented guide on Financial Crimes Against the Elderly and co-hosted with the National Sheriff's Association a series of national conference calls with the guide's author and law enforcement officers, prosecutors, business leaders, and community groups to fight financial abuse of the elderly. Finally, COPS has identified other resources such as Guides & Reports, Training & Technical Assistance, and Links to Other Resources for better protecting our nation's seniors from financial exploitation.