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For immediate release: June 15, 2016
Contact: Craig Smith
Phone: 518-204-3130

NYS OCFS Announces Release of Groundbreaking Study of the Cost of Financial Exploitation in New York.

Research by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services finds the statewide impact of financial exploitation is at least $1.5 billion

 The New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) today announced the release of The New York State Cost of Financial Exploitation, a multi-agency study of the impact of financial crimes against the elderly, with an eye toward prevention. The financial exploitation of older and vulnerable adults is a nationwide problem having a major impact in New York. The groundbreaking study finds that financial exploitation costs victims and the state at least $1.5 billion each year, and probably more.

“New York is leading the nation in this research,” said Acting OCFS Commissioner Sheila J. Poole. “We are raising awareness through our research on the scope and severity of this despicable crime and, through our pilot projects, we will gain knowledge to inform our statewide efforts to prevent financial exploitation of vulnerable and elderly New Yorkers. We are working with our partners in the financial industry so they know what to look for and how to report it to strengthen the fight against those who would steal from our seniors and vulnerable adults.”

The overwhelming majority of financial exploitation cases are never reported to authorities.
An estimated 42 out of every 1,000 New Yorkers over the age of 60 fall victim to financial exploitation. The OCFS Bureau of Adult Services partnered with 31 local departments of social services and Lifespan of Greater Rochester, Inc. to produce some of the most comprehensive research on financial exploitation ever conducted in the United States.

Key findings include:

• Financial exploitation totals an estimated $1.5 billion each year in stolen cash and property, benefits paid to victims, and investigative costs statewide.
• About 60 percent of the time, the perpetrator is an adult child or relative of the victim.
• Cash, checks, and debit cards are the most commonly stolen items.
• Benefit checks, deeds, real estate, retirement accounts, and vehicles are also targets.
• Nearly half of all victims have a physical impairment.
• About one-third of victims have mental impairment or dementia.
• Caucasian women in their 70s and 80s are the most common victims, but the crimes affect all cultures and ethnicities.
• 58 percent of victims do not fully understand that their money or valuables were stolen.

The full report is available on the OCFS website.

OCFS, the New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) and the New York State Department of Financial Services are working with the New York Bankers Association, the Credit Union Association of New York, and other key players in the industry to help loan officers and bank employees identify coerced transfers of funds and property. Simultaneously, the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance is alerting the public and professionals to the warning signs of financial exploitation. The study and a video summary of the state agency training with financial services industry representatives will be available on the OCFS and NYSOFA web sites.

OCFS Bureau of Adult Services Director Alan Lawitz said, “Our study brings the depth of this devastating problem into focus and raises awareness of the vulnerability of the elderly. Now, teaming up with our partners in government and the banking industry, we are working aggressively to help New Yorkers identify, report, and prevent the financial exploitation of older New Yorkers and vulnerable adults.”

OCFS has been awarded a $300,000 federal grant to improve financial exploitation investigations and data collection in New York State. New York State is working with a forensic accountant to develop a document collection tool for use in financial exploitation investigations. A forensic accountant is also part of pilot programs in Onondaga and Queens Counties to help local APS investigators analyze potential criminal and civil court cases. And, grant funds are being used to enhance reporting and recording systems to better gather data on the costs of financial exploitation and the characteristics of victims and perpetrators. The enhanced system will also conform state data collection to the federal APS data system.

Acting Superintendent of Financial Services Maria T. Vullo said, “DFS is partnering with the institutions we regulate to help them become better able to recognize the red flags associated with elder financial abuse and work to prevent it. The Cuomo administration will continue its strong commitment to fighting financial fraud and protecting seniors, who are too often targets for financial fraud.”

Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Commissioner Samuel D. Roberts said, “This is an opportunity to encourage all New Yorkers to look out for older neighbors, friends or family members who might be susceptible to financial exploitation. When our most vulnerable residents are victimized, it is vital for the proper resources to be available to assist them.”

Acting State Office for the Aging Director Greg Olsen said, “When criminals take advantage of older adults this way, the consequences can force them to forgo basic health and safety needs, or to prematurely rely on public benefits such as Medicaid, for needed care or daily expenses. Now that financial exploitation of older persons is becoming a widely-known problem, professionals in the courts and the health care and banking industries are seeing it more often and forming partnerships that can go far in helping to prevent further loss.”

About OCFS
OCFS serves New York by promoting the safety, permanency, and well-being of children, families, and communities. OCFS maintains an active social media presence. “Like” the New York State Office of Children and Family Services Facebook page and follow @NYSOCFS on Twitter in English or the Spanish-language Twitter account, @NYSOCFS espanol.

The OCFS Bureau of Adult Services oversees Adult Protective Services in all 62 counties. To report a case of suspected elder abuse in Upstate New York, call 1-844-697-3505. In New York City, call (212) 630-1853.