In Philadelphia alone, there are more than 73,000 residents with disabilities so severe that they require someone else to manage their annual Social Security benefits - totaling almost $50 million a month, or about $600 million a year, according to the Social Security Administration.
The benefits are supposed to pay for food, shelter and personal necessities. But for those who prey on the helpless, it is a lucrative enterprise that holds little chance of getting caught.
Experts say the physical abuse, neglect and financial exploitation of the elderly and disabled is rampant and underreported.
"It's a tsunami," said Joe Snyder, director of older adult protective services at the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging.
"It's America's dirty little secret."