More than 7.3 million older Americans — one out of every five citizens over the age of 65 — already have been victimized by a financial swindle, according to a new survey.

The survey, by the nonprofit Investor Protection Trust and conducted by Infogroup/ORC, was released Tuesday to mark World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The survey of 2,022 American adults — including 706 adult children with at least one parent aged 65 or older and 590 adults who are aged 65 or older and have children — found that half of older Americans exhibit one or more of the warning signs of current financial victimization. For example, more than one out of three seniors (37 percent) are currently being pitched by “people [who] are calling me or mailing me asking for money, lotteries, and other schemes,” while a much lower 19 percent of adult children believe that their parents are being pressured in such a fashion.

Almost half of those aged 65 or over (44 percent) got at least two out of four questions wrong about basic investment knowledge. About one out of three older Americans (31 percent) said they are vulnerable in one or more ways to potential financial victimization.

“We now know that a shockingly large number of older Americans are already victims of financial swindles and millions more are in danger of being exploited in such a fashion,” said IPT president and CEO Don Blandin in a statement.

Only 5 percent of adult children in touch with their parents’ doctors report “the health care providers ever mention[ing] any concerns about your parents handling of money or relayed any concern from your parent about handling money.” However, of that same group, nearly one in five (19 percent) report the health care provider has mentioned concerns about “your parents' mental comprehension.” Only 2 percent of Americans aged 65 or older say that their health care provider has ever asked about “how you are handling money issues or problems.”

Four out of 10 children of parents 65 or older are “very” or “somewhat” worried that their parents “have already become or will become less able to handle their personal finances over time.” Among those over the age of 65,  more than a third (36 percent) are “very” or “somewhat” worried about being less able to handle money issues over time.

Seventy-one percent of those over 65 handle their finances themselves, while 24 percent rely on relatives for at least some help and 3 percent rely on non-family members, according to their children.

Eighty-nine percent of children are “very confident” or “somewhat confident” of their parents' current ability to handle personal finances. Only 11 percent of them said they are “not very confident” or “not confident” at all. This contrasts with the views of those aged 65 or older: 97 percent say they are "very" or "somewhat" confident about their current ability to handle money and just 3 percent who are "not very confident" or "not confident at all” with handling personal finances.

Eighty percent of children think that their parents aged 65 or older would tell them “immediately” if they were swindled, compared to 16 percent who think their parents would be ashamed and hide such a fact. Separately, over a third (35 percent) of children say it is not likely or not very likely at all that they would be able to figure out that their parents had been swindled if their parents did not disclose that fact. 

For the full survey findings, visit www.investorprotection.org.