Wednesday, May 9, 2018
Check out this new issue brief from the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA) Research to Practice Series. Fraud versus financial abuse and the influence of social relationship, offers this summary
Elder financial exploitation, committed by individuals in positions of trust, and elder fraud, committed by predatory strangers, are two forms of financial victimization that target vulnerable older adults. The study presented in the webinar analyzes differences between fraud and financial exploitation APS victims in terms of their health, functional dependency, cognitive functioning, and social relationships.
In this mixed methods study, fifty-three financial exploitation and fraud cases were sampled from an elder abuse forensic center in California. Data include law enforcement and caseworker investigation reports, victim medical records, perpetrator demographic information, and forensic assessments of victim health and cognitive functioning.
The vast majority of fraud and financial exploitation victims performed poorly on tests of cognitive functioning and financial decision-making administered by a forensic neuropsychologist following the allegations. Based on retrospective record review, there were few significant differences in physical health and cognitive functioning at the time victims' assets were taken, although their social contexts were different. Fraud most often occurred when a vulnerable elder was solicited by a financial predator
in the absence of capable guardians. In other words, most fraud victims in the sample did not have trusted friends or family members assisting with financial decisions and providing care at the time the fraud perpetrators entered the picture. Fraud victims were significantly less likely to have children and also had fewer relatives nearby. In sum, fraud and financial exploitation victims had different family and friend structures that may create different opportunity structures for crime.
Social isolation was not only a potential risk factor for financial victimization, it was also a tactic of undue influence to further manipulate and control the victims. Some fraud victims in the sample developed close friendships and romantic relationships with the financial perpetrators, even in the cases where they communicated only by telephone. While these relationships were constructed to manipulate and deceive the victim, they felt authentic to the older person. Perpetrators often exploited the victim's need for companionship and began limiting and controlling their victims' social interactions to create a sense of powerlessness and emotional dependency.