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The vexing problem of defining financial exploitation

Shelly L. Jackson (Institute of Law, Psychiatry and Public Policy, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, USA)

Journal of Financial Crime

ISSN: 1359-0790

Article publication date: 5 January 2015




The purpose of this paper was to study the vexing problem of defining financial exploitation. Advocates and practitioners in the field who have been battling financial exploitation are pleased to observe the increased attention that financial exploitation is receiving at all levels of society. With this increased attention, however, there has been a conflation of terms used to describe financial exploitation, resulting in some confusion about what constitutes financial exploitation.


Fully recognizing that definitions serve different functions, this paper identifies three main purposes of a definition and then describes the myriad ways financial exploitation has been defined in the research literature, by organizations, and in civil and criminal statutes.


Financial exploitation has been defined in multiple ways within and across categories. Furthermore, the definition has expanded over time. This paper proposes the need for greater definitional clarity around the concept of financial exploitation, and argues that at a minimum a distinction must be made between financial exploitation and financial fraud.


This is the first paper to comprehensively review the myriad ways in which financial exploitation has been defined in the literature, by organizations and within state civil and criminal statutes.



Jackson, S.L. (2015), "The vexing problem of defining financial exploitation", Journal of Financial Crime, Vol. 22 No. 1, pp. 63-78.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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