Recently, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a new report on elder financial abuse in the United States.

According to the CFPB, the nation’s largest private financial institutions state that they have received massive amounts of elder financial fraud. They report more than $6 billion in elder financial fraud between 2013 and 2017. Even more alarming, the agency cautions that the true extent of senior citizen financial abuse is almost undoubtedly far higher. Elder financial exploitation goes systemically underreported. The CFPB estimates that there were more than 3.5 million incidents of elder financial exploitation in 2017 alone.

Elder financial abuse comes in a wide range of different forms.

In some cases, this is a type of fraud committed by an overseas scammer. Someone using the internet, a phone call, or the postal service to carry out their illicit scheme. In other cases, elder financial fraud is committed by close friends or family members . An unscrupulous person using their position of trust to take advantage of a vulnerable senior citizen.

The CFPB recommends that a person who has been the victim of elder financial fraud reach out to their local adult protective services agency or to a private legal professional. Depending on the specific nature of the incident, there may be options available to try to recover money or property lost in a fraud scheme.

Notably, the best way to protect a vulnerable elderly person is by taking proactive measures.

As explained by Renton, WA estate planning attorney Dan Kellogg, “Estate planning is about more than dividing and distributing assets. There are many cases in which older people are no longer able to effectively manage their own financial or legal affairs. Using estate planning tools such as giving a trustworthy family member power of attorney or setting up a trust to help manage and protect assets can dramatically reduce the risk of a vulnerable person becoming a victim of financial fraud or financial exploitation.”

The CFPB notes that many elder financial fraud victims lost tens of thousands of dollars. Often, the money was not lost all at once, but instead over multiple, ongoing fraudulent transactions. To help reduce the rate of elder financial exploitation; the CFPB has teamed up with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to create Money Smart for Older Adults. A program designed to raise awareness among senior citizens and caregivers; on how to prevent and respond to elder financial fraud.