Financial exploitation has been dubbed by some experts as the Crime of the 21st
century. Opportunities for nancial exploitation have increased with nancial and
market diversication, greater levels of economic activity and a vast array of nancial
products and services with many delivery channels and technological developments
(Wilson, 2012). It is estimated that older adults lose $2.9 billion annually (MetLife, 2011),
an estimate that fails to take into consideration the emotional, psychological and health
consequences associated with nancial exploitation, or the additional costs associated
with social services, healthcare and legal services (Deem, 2000;Dong and Simon, 2013;
Szanton et al., 2008). Additional costs are incurred by society (Moore and Schaefer, 2004)
and family members (Bond et al., 1999), who must now support many of these nancial
victims, and the loss of wealth transfer to the next generation (Langbein, 1988).
Similar to nancial crimes, nancial exploitation is a rubric which encompasses a
host of illegal and improper nancial actions (Conrad et al., 2010;Hafemeister, 2003;
Jackson and Hafemeister, 2012;Johnson, 2003). Improper actions might include
duplicitous arrangements for the management of assets (e.g. older person’s income
being absorbed into family nances), improper use or transfer of assets (e.g. demanding
transfers, moving in uninvited), abuse and misuse of nances (e.g. signing forms
without understanding, family using funds without the older adult’s knowledge) or
prioritizing nancial gain over care of an older person (e.g. providing “care” for the older
adult when it is contraindicated).
Given the wide variety of actions represented by the term nancial exploitation, it is
not surprising that nancial exploitation has been variably referred to as nancial
abuse, nancial elder abuse, nancial fraud, duciary, economic or material abuse,
nancial mistreatment, personal or commercial nancial elder abuse and just plain
exploitation. These terms are often used interchangeably implying a singular meaning.
The diversity of terms used to describe nancial exploitation has contributed to
confusion over what characterizes this type of action.
Hafemeister (2003, p. 386) wrote his seminal paper on nancial exploitation that
nancial exploitation is poorly dened in part because it is hard to dene.
Unfortunately, little progress has been made in dening this concept in the intervening
years (Lowndes et al., 2009). However, dening nancial exploitation is not just an
academic exercise. Vague denitions leave nancial exploitation difcult to identify,
investigate, prosecute, study and prevent (Dessin, 2005;Hafemeister, 2003;Payne, 2011).
The purpose of this paper is to explore the various ways in which nancial exploitation
has been dened and to distinguish nancial exploitation from nancial fraud, with an
eye toward improvements in theory building and intervention. It should be noted that
this paper focuses on actions that result in economic gain or benet to the offender rather
than the use or misuse of assets to control another individual, as observed in the context
of intimate partner violence (Fawole, 2008;Stylianou et al., 2013).
The purpose of a denition
Denitions may differ depending on their intended purpose. There are three main
purposes for which a denition is used (Friedrichs, 2010):
(2) typological; and