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AARP Texas Works to Stop Financial Abuse of Elders

AARP Texas is helping older people avoid becoming victims of financial abuse by family members or others close to them. (Wikimedia Commons)
AARP Texas is helping older people avoid becoming victims of financial abuse by family members or others close to them. (Wikimedia Commons)
September 30, 2016

AUSTIN, Texas – Becoming older often means needing help from others, but sometimes that help can turn to harm when someone close steals from the elderly. October is Elder Financial Exploitation Awareness Month, and groups including AARP Texas say it's a growing problem that affects the financial, physical and emotional health of its victims.

Tim Morstad, assistant director for AARP Texas, warns the problem of financial elder abuse is expected to grow as more people reach retirement age.

"The 65-plus-year-old folks here in Texas are expected to double between 2010 and 2030," he said. "So, like other states, we have a graying population. We're concerned that people might get taken advantage of."

Morstad said AARP's Fraud Watch Network provides seniors and their families with tools to help them avoid theft and fraud. He said AARP is also working with financial institutions to be on the lookout for suspicious transactions, as well as to identify community resources to protect seniors and prosecute financial abusers.

Morstad said proper financial planning can prevent abuse by family members or paid assistants. He said because some older Texans may have significant retirement assets, they are often targeted by those close to them.

"It's estimated that $2.9 billion are lost each year because older people have been defrauded or otherwise financially abused," he explained. "All too often, this seems to be happening by caretakers or other family members."

He said AARP is also working with the Texas Legislature to give the state's Adult Protective Services agency the ability to investigate financial exploitation complaints.

"Over the past year, both a House and a Senate committee have looked at this," Morstad added. "They've acknowledged it's a problem, and they are going to call for improved legislation to better protect Texans against elder financial abuse."

He cited the Elder Financial Safety Center in Dallas, a program that connects fraud victims with resources from a local nonprofit and to area prosecutors and judges.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - TX