In the 6 years from 2010 to 2016, elderly Mainers lost some $28 million to financial exploitation, most at the hands of children, grandchildren or other family members, and the amount could be much, much more. That’s according to a new report produced by USM’s Muskie School of Public Service, based on an analysis of 864 cases.
The cases were handled by Maine’s Adult Protective Services and nonprofit Legal Services for the Elderly. LSE Executive Director Jaye Martin says the exploitation may happen when seniors have health problems or other stress in their lives, and family members take advantage of the situation.
“To convince the senior to sign their home over, to put people on their banking accounts or checking accounts, to take out credit cards in the person’s name,” she says. “Often these are individuals who are ultimately going to end up needing state assistance as a result of it. We definitely have seen our clients face a risk of homelessness because of this.”
Martin says, while this is a longstanding problem, it’s one that’s growing. The study indicates that reported cases account for only a small portion of actual financial exploitation, in part because many victims don’t seek help.