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Older Texans Need More Protection from Financial Abuse, Group Says

Cases of elder financial exploitation often go unreported. (Pixabay)
Cases of elder financial exploitation often go unreported. (Pixabay)
October 11, 2018

AUSTIN, Texas – Experts say almost every day, an older Texan is the victim of fraud, theft or another form of financial exploitation.

And with the 65-plus population expected to double by 2030, it's a crime that could get much worse without action.

Tim Morstad, associate state director for advocacy and outreach with AARP Texas, says older adults can be vulnerable to financial abuse from strangers, caregivers or even family members.

He notes it's a crime that is dramatically under-reported.

"Adult Protective Services only gets a fraction of the calls from people who are actually being exploited,” he points out. “And that's because there is usually a shame factor in an older person reaching out and filing a complaint for suspected exploitation."

According to the National Adult Protective Services Association, only about one in 44 elder financial abuse cases is ever reported.

Morstad says about $3 billion each year are taken from older Americans due to financial exploitation, but some estimates say it's actually as high as $6 billion.

Adult Protective Services (APS) in Texas works to protect older adults from financial abuse, and conducts in-home investigations with victims.

Morstad says cases often are complicated and it can be difficult to recover stolen money.

"But they also try to get the older person back whole, back together again,” he states. “So if they were unable to pay their utility bill based on the money that was taken, there is some small assistance that's available to help these people in need."

Morstad notes that APS' investigative ability is limited by inadequate funding, and a high turnover rate of investigators.

"Investigators at Adult Protective Services have caseloads that are unrealistically high,” he points out. “They are also getting paid substantially less than state workers who do very similar work for child protective services."

Morstad adds that during the 2019 legislative session, AARP Texas will be promoting the need for proper funding for APS to ensure the agency has the tools it needs to protect older Texans.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - TX