July 9, 2012
A grandson defrauds his grandfather of $400,000, but the grandfather does not report the incident because he doesn't want his grandson to go to jail. The grandfather is left to deal with the financial blow and emotional ramifications of such a sting on his own. This type of situation where an older adult falls victim to a scam but does not report the incident to an authority occurs for a variety of reasons, and it occurs all too often with significant psychological, financial and emotional repercussions.
The 2011 AARP Foundation National Fraud Victim Study revealed that only 25 percent of people older than 50 in the U.S. reported to an authority that they had fallen for a scam. According to Statistics Canada, about seven in 10 crimes against older Canadians are never reported to police because victims did not believe the incident was important enough to seek help or because they dealt with the issue personally.
Even when a scam is averted, sometimes the potential senior victim may still suffer psychological damage. Seniors who are victimized by crime or who feel threatened by scammers may suffer these repercussions:
- Physical and emotional impact. Seniors may recuperate more slowly, and life-threatening illnesses can occur.
- Inability to recover financially. If seniors lose income from a financial or real estate scam, robbery or burglary, they often struggle even more if they are living on a fixed income.
- Loss of independence. Studies have shown that crime is a catalyst that can bring an end to emotional and financial independence, curtailing the lives and lifespan of seniors.
- Diminished quality of life. Inability to recover, worrying about the likelihood that it will happen again and regretting the consequences of that poor decision may drive victims to become reclusive, embarrassed, distressed, and suffer from poor self-confidence.
- Vicarious victimization. The National Center on Elder Abuse identified a phenomenon called "vicarious victimization," which means the senior has not been a victim, but he or she fears being one. Seniors may alter their lifestyle by withdrawing from society, abandoning family, friends, church and shopping. They may see the world in a warped perspective, which can happen to seniors who are homebound and get all their news from television.
If a senior is living alone, a Home Instead CAREGiverSM can provide an extra set of alert eyes and ears for reassurance and protection as another way to help prevent crime.
Older adults may exhibit characteristics that make them targets of scammers. Checks out Why Seniors are Targets (U.S. edition or Canadian edition) and what the Home Instead Senior Care® network can do to help.
A Criminal Target Scale can help family caregivers assess how likely their senior loved ones could be potential fraud targets.
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