Office of Children and Family Services

News Article
Friday, June 17, 2016

NYSOCFS Releases Groundbreaking Study of the Cost of Financial Exploitation in New York

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

That is one finding of The New York State Cost of Financial Exploitation Study, 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 affecting New York State in a major way. The study finds financial exploitation costs victims and the state at least $1.5 billion each year and probably more.

Acting OCFS Commissioner Sheila J. Poole says New York is leading the nation with this research. “We are raising awareness through our research on the scope and severity of this despicable crime," says Poole,"and through our pilot projects, we will gain knowledge to inform our statewide efforts to prevent financial exploitation of vulnerable and elderly New Yorkers." Poole says her agency is 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.

Jilene Gunther, author of the The 2011 Utah Economic Cost of Elder Financial Exploitation report, said the New York study is "incredible and will move mountains in this field." 

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.

According to the study, 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. The most commonly stolen items are cash, checks, and debit cards. Benefit checks, deeds, real estate, retirement accounts, and vehicles are also desirable targets for criminals.

Nearly half of all victims have a physical impairment and 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, and often victims do not fully understand that their money or valuables were stolen.

The study can be found here.

OCFS Bureau of Adult Services Director Alan Lawitz and OCFS research scientist Yufan Huang authored the report. “Our study brings the depth of this devastating problem into focus and raises awareness of the vulnerability of the elderly," Lawitz says. "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.

Igal Jellinek is the executive director of LiveOn NY. He says the report should focus attention on an enormous problem that "compels both government and community partners to develop a roadmap of solutions and a safety net of services and laws to ensure that seniors do not have go through this alone."


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