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Financial exploitation of elderly a growing concern

Many of Minnesota's elderly residents have been targeted by unscrupulous individuals who cheat them out of their money through identity theft and other scams. In some cases, it's not just a common thief but an investment banker or other supposed professional who drains away the person's estate through imprudent investments, self-dealing and breach of fiduciary duty.

In a 2010 survey, the nonprofit Investor Protection Trust found that financial fraud affected one in five Americans over age 65. Another study found that the total financial loss to older individuals in these scams amounted to $2.6 billion.

And many experts say that the actual numbers are grossly underreported, and growing. Many seniors are embarrassed to admit that they have been victims of fraud. Often, scam artists target widows who are taking control of their own finances for the first time and are ashamed to admit that they can't do it on their own. Others may not realize they were cheated until too late. Perhaps saddest of all are the cases where criminals target an elderly person because of dementia, and the victim never understands what happened.

These issues often come up in the context of probate litigation when an heir suddenly realizes that an inheritance is not as big as it should have been. In some cases, a scam artist even gets an elderly person to bestow an inheritance on the crook. In such cases, the intended heirs may challenge the will in a will contest.

Minnesota residents who see signs of financial exploitation of the elderly should report their concerns to the authorities. Those who see the signs of this kind of exploitation after their elderly relatives have passed away should get help investigating their legal options.

Source: Brandenton Herald, "Scammers, schemers target the elderly in Florida," Ana Veciana-Suarez, May 6, 2013

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