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National Hotline Campaign Aims at Elder Financial Abuse Victims

Elderly Americans who suspect they’ve been victims of financial fraud and adult children of seniors can report potential cases during a one-day national hotline next week.

Three separate call-in lines to financial planners, doctors and protective service professionals will be open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. New York time on Nov. 10.

“We wish we could have a 24-hour hotline,” said Don Blandin, president and chief executive officer of Investor Protection Trust, a Washington-based nonprofit, which advocates for investors and a hotline co-sponsor. Limited resources prevented a longer call-in period, he said.

“There’s a lot of financial abuse, as simple as stealing money from a drawer or a family being scammed in a Ponzi scheme,” said Blandin.

One out of five Americans over the age of 65, or more than 7.3 million people, have been cheated by investment scammers, according to a June 2010 survey by Investor Protection Trust.

For every reported case, four to five go unreported, Blandin said in a telephone interview. That may be because seniors don’t want to implicate a family member when it happens or they don’t know who to tell, he said.

“Even if the police are out there going after the folks, the chances of getting your money back is difficult,” said Blandin. “The idea is to prevent it from happening in the first place and the more educated you are, the more likely you’ll know how to put precautions in place.”

Financial Loss

The annual financial loss by victims of elder financial abuse may be as much as $2.9 billion, a 12 percent increase from 2008, according to a June 2011 report by MetLife Inc. (MET)’s MetLife Mature Market Institute, a research organization focused on aging.

The Financial Planning Association, a co-sponsor of the hotline, has recruited 150 financial planners to volunteer their time to answer questions about a variety of topics from estate planning to spotting signs of financial fraud, Marvin W. Tuttle Jr., executive director and CEO of the planning association, said at a conference call about the hotline. General finance questions can be directed to 888-227-1776 when the hotline is activated.

Volunteers from the National Adult Protective Services Association, another co-sponsor, will give callers strategies for preventing financial exploitation. Financial abuse questions can be directed to 888-303-3297 and medical questions will be answered at 888-303-0430.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tania Chen in New York at tchen154@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rick Levinson at rlevinson2@bloomberg.net.

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