Woman sipping tea

Elder abuse is on the rise around the United States, with millions of cases being reported to authorities every year. For every case which is brought to the attention of those organizations that can assist seniors, several more cases of abuse go unrecognized. The National Center on Elder Abuse estimates only seven percent of all cases of abuse of senior citizens is ever reported.

New Jersey, like many states, has seen a recent rise in abuse of senior citizens. Many of these victims are targeted by family members charged with their care. Admissions of seniors to protective services in the Garden State are at a record high level.

Abuse of elderly people can take many forms – not just physical. Seniors are the wealthiest of all age groups, according to the Pew Research Center. A 2009 study by that group found Americans age 65 and over are worth an average of $170,494.

Financial scams are carried out by outside groups, as well as caretakers. One favorite tactic is for “contractors” to show up announced at doors, offering home repair. Groups of men and women work together to extract as much money as they can from the home owners for unneeded repairs.

As a senior citizen, you can help protect your money by having social security or other benefits and income direct deposited to your bank account.

Be extremely wary about any prize, investment or loan that you are offered from strangers. Like the old saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is because it is not true.

Elderly people are often the victims of scams that start with a telemarketing phone call. Place your number on the federal Do Not Call List, at www.DoNotCall.com. The process only takes a few minutes.

Discuss your personal information with no one except those you trust without question.

Learn the signs of elder abuse, and be aware of what is happening around you. You could be the next victim saved.