With money being stored and transferred digitally more often due to the ease of use, it’s becoming increasingly clear that there is plenty of room for error. One of the most common issues resulting from this is financial exploitation, specifically regarding elderly people.
The Washington Post reports that 85-year-old Bethesda, MD, resident Rene Cuzon du Rest was recently the victim of exploitation, amounting up to $404,000 being stolen from him.
Cuzon du Rest was born in France and immigrated to the United States after World War II in order to become an oceanographer. By age 85, he had bequeathed the majority of his savings to cancer research.
However, as he slipped further into dementia, Cuzon du Rest required the help of a caretaker. He hired 66-year-old woman Rosetta Horne, who over a span of two years was able to withdraw $400 in cash everyday, enter banks impersonating Cuzon du Rest, liquidated his brokerage account, and had even arranged to have his safe deposit box drilled open.
After a two week trial, Horne was convicted of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult, theft, and embezzlement. She was ultimately sentenced to five years in prison.
Attorney John McCarthy, who handled the case, said that Cuzon du Rest’s situation was a typical instance of elder abuse. Unfortunately, of those elders who are even aware it is happening, many don’t report it out of fear or embarrassment.
“Only 41 out of every 1,000 cases of elder financial exploitation are reported,” remarked the prosecutors involved with the case.
With so many instances of exploitation going unreported, cases of elder abuse may be increasing more than we realize.
According to Oregon’s Statesman Journal, the third annual report from the Oregon Office of Adult Abuse Prevention and Investigations (OAAPI) showed a 10% increase in the number of investigations of abuse and mistreatment cases just in 2014.
In that year, there were more than 38,000 potential cases of abuse, a substantial jump from the 35,000 cases from 2013. These situations involve the abuse of elders, including those with physical, intellectual, developmental, or mental-health disabilities. The most common of these situations dealt with financial exploitation and neglect.
The 2010 Investor Protection Trust Elder Fraud Survey found that one in five people over the age of 65 in the United States had been victims of financial fraud.
But Joe Merrifield, the research and prevention unit manager of the OAAPI, said the census data shows that these figures are on the rise. Since 2010, there have been more 50,000 residents turning 65 annually, which will likely lead to an increase in the number of these cases.
“Obviously, not everyone over 65 is vulnerable,” Merrifield said. “Many are living longer, healthier lives, but it’s likely we’ll continue to see an increase in the number of cases reported as well as the number of cases investigated and the number of vulnerable adults abused as a result.”
With the annual growth of the baby boomer generation expected to add nearly 300,000 elders to Oregon’s population, the OAAPI created a tool-free hotline for children and adults, with the sole purpose of reporting abuse.