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Elder Financial Exploitation Study

 

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Researchers Drs. Virginia Vincenti and Bernard Steinman are seeking to understanding of elder financial exploitation (EFE) within families, most of whom believed it would never happen in their families. EFE is defined as the illegal or improper use of an elder's resources for another's profit or advantage. 

This problem has been increasing since the 1980s and unfortunately family members are the most common perpetrators of EFE using powers of attorney (POA).  Because of family secrecy, most cases go unreported, but Acierno et al. (2009) estimated 5.2 percent of those 65 and older are currently afflicted with EFE from a family member. Because of the complexity of family relationships and the frequent resource exchanges within families, it is often difficult for family members to even recognize when this crime is occurring.  Also, because of loyalty, family or personal pride, and fear of family conflict and blame, families tend to keep such inappropriate behavior secret and unreported to authorities even when recognized. 

This study is intended to increase family members' ability to proactively identify risk factors that might increase the likelihood of family EFE occuring and to address family problems before an older relative becomes dependent and the power structure in the family shifts. It also can help older relatives think more deeply about who should be chosen to be his/her POA agent.  Safeguards and checks and balances can be written into POA documents.  Prevention is definitely the most viable option after we learn enough to inform family members and professionals working with them about how they can be proactive in reducing the risks.

Beyond the financial consequences of family EFE, the human toll that stresses elders and family members emotionally and interpersonally and causes fractures and estrangements can weaken family units for generations. 

Through your participation in our confidential survey and follow-up interviews, you can help us prevent  EFE and protect elders and families from experiencing this devastating problem. To show our appreciation of your time and effort, we will provide a money order for completing each part of the study ($20 for completion of the survey and $30 for the interview).

If you are interested in participating in the survey, please fill out the following information so we may contact you to send you a consent form.  Once we receive your signed consent form, we will email you a private, personal URL to the survey or we could call you to conduct the survey over the phone.  Follow-up interviews will be done either in person or over the phone. 


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Dr. Virginia Vincenti, Department of Family and Consumer Sciences

Laramie, WY

Phone: 307-766-4079

Email: vincenti@uwyo.edu

1000 E. University Ave. Laramie, WY 82071
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