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What Makes People Vulnerable to Elder Fraud?

Research supported by Merrill Lynch provides some unexpected clues that could help you protect your loved ones

THOMAS BLOMBERG FOUND MORE THAN HE BARGAINED FOR when he visited a Florida retirement community to conduct ground-breaking research on the causes of elder fraud. He came away with plenty of data. What he didn't expect was how deeply moved he'd be.

"Talking with the victims was emotionally charged," says Blomberg, dean of the College of Criminology & Criminal Justice at Florida State University. In particular, he recalls one man who confessed, with tears in his eyes, to losing $3,500 on the false promise of unlimited cruises. "It's not the money," the man said. "I just feel so stupid." That sense of embarrassment, says Blomberg, can cause people to isolate themselves from those who could help them avoid becoming a victim again.

The text at the top says Elder Abuse Alert  Top 3 Elder Fraud Red Flags for Merrill Lynch Financial Advisors (1) 43 Percentage New influencers decision makers in clients life (2) 22 Percentage Large Financial transfers of gifts (3) 21 Percentage Change in Investment style or Behavior Source What Behavioral Finance Has to Say About Elder Financial Fraud 2016

Blomberg's research, conducted by Florida State University with support from Merrill Lynch, uncovered the most common ways fraud is perpetrated, as well as triggers that can make people susceptible. The findings have been used to identify strategies that friends, family—even financial advisors—can use to help protect those most vulnerable, says Andrew Porter, director of behavioral finance at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management.

For starters, Porter recommends families hold regular meetings to discuss financial concerns and decision-making. It can also help to connect trusted financial professionals with those who are watching out for an elderly relative, he says. That way everyone can work together to help spot and prevent problems

Read 6 Classic Elder Fraud Scams—and How You Can Help Prevent Them for useful tips to help you protect your loved ones. You can find more about Florida State University’s research in this paper: What Behavioral Finance Has to Say About Elder Financial Fraud.

3 Questions to Ask Your Advisor

  1. What signs should I watch for that my parents might need help managing their finances?
  2. How can I start a conversation with my parents about their eldercare needs?
  3. Could establishing a trust help our family manage my parents' financial needs?

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Thomas G. Blomberg, Julie Mestre Brancale,.George Pesta, J.W. Andrew Ranson and Brae Campion, “Elder Financial Exploitation in a Large Retirement Community.” Florida State University College of Criminology and Criminal Justice, The Center for Criminology and Public Policy, 2016.

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