GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Elder abuse, especially financial exploitation, is a growing concern on the national stage and locally, and is among issues being highlighted as part of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on Friday.

Fifty-two cases of vulnerable adult abuse, mostly embezzlement, have been filed in Kent County since Jan. 2016, Prosecutor Chris Becker said.

In most cases, vulnerable adults who fall victim to financial crimes are targeted by people they know.

"It's people they trust,’’ Becker said. “It's not the scam artist. It's the niece, the nephew, the son, the daughter. It's somebody close to them.''

Older Americans lose an estimated $2.6 billion annually due to financial abuse and exploitation, according to the Administration for Community Living.

“It is a significant problem and it’s not only our country, but worldwide, whether it be physical abuse or financial exploitation,’’ Becker said. “In this country, when you look at the Baby Boomers, it’s becoming a bigger problem as they get older.’’

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day got its start in 2006; the U.S. Department of Justice plans to commemorate the annual event on Friday, June 15.

“Elders without strong social networks face a greater risk of abuse, neglect, or exploitation,’’ the Administration for Community Living says on its website, www.acl.gov. The agency was created in 2012 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Gov. Rick Snyder proclaimed Friday, June 15 as Elder and Vulnerable Adult Abuse Awareness Day in Michigan. "Michigan's older adults are valued members of our state, and it is our responsibility to ensure their safety and minimize crimes against them,'' Snyder said in the proclamation.

Physical, psychological or verbal abuse, neglect, sexual abuse and financial exploitation are all considered forms of elder abuse and can occur in both private homes and institutional settings, such as nursing homes, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

"All Michigan residents should watch for signs of abuse, such as physical trauma, withdrawal, depression, anxiety and fear of family members, friends or caregivers,'' MDHHS Director Nick Lyon said in a statement.

Becker says abuse of vulnerable adults, especially financial exploitation, is most likely to flourish when they are isolated.

"You've got to fight the isolation,'' Becker said. “The more people you have involved in your life, the more others are involved, it's better and it makes it much more difficult to be taken advantage of.’’

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