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Elder Financial Exploitation Study

Researchers Drs. Virginia Vincenti, and Axton Betz-Hamilton are seeking 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 older person'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 older person's and their 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 older persons and their 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).

EFE is defined as the illegal or improper use of an older person's resources for another's profit or advantage. 

If you are interested in participating in the survey,

First, fill out this short eligibility/participation form to verify that you have met the eligibility requirements and to provide some basic information. 

Second, complete the consent/confidentiality form by either:

  • Downloading and completing the fillable PDF electronically, then emailing it to Dr. Virginia Vincenti,
  • or
  • Printing the PDF, completing it, and mailing it to Dr. Virginia Vincenti at:
    • University of Wyoming
    • Dept. 3354
    • 1000 E. University Ave.
    • Laramie, WY 82071

Typing your name into the signature field in the fillable confidentiality form and emailing it from your email address is considered a valid signature. Once we receive your signed consent form, we will email you a private, personal URL to the survey or if you prefer, we can call you to conduct the survey over the phone.  After your survey is completed, we will contact you to set up an appointment for a follow-up interview that will be done either in person or over the phone. 

Contact Us

Dr. Virginia Vincenti, Department of Family and Consumer Sciences

Laramie, WY

Phone: 307-766-4079


1000 E. University Ave. Laramie, WY 82071
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