Articles Posted in Reporting Elder Abuse

We’ve previously chronicled the rise of the grandparent scam, wherein a telephone scammer poses as a relative or grandchild and calls an elderly person, citing an emergency and asking him or her to send money or account information immediately.

So, how do these scams work? Frequently, a caller will make contact and when the target answers the phone, the caller will respond with: “Hi, Grandma” or “Hi, Grandpa,”3 in hopes to establish a connection that will confuse the elderly phone victim and make him or her more likely to share their financial information or wire money to the fraudster. These con artists usually concoct a scheme where they pose as a grandchild and may say something along the lines of, “My car broke down and in order to get it fixed and come home, I need money,” or may pretend to need bail money, or that they’ve been mugged. Sensing an emergency, the elder may supply their personal financial information to the caller, unknowingly playing into the hands of the con-artists.

Unfortunately, this scheme is sometimes extended, as the personal information of the victim is shared with other scam organizations who may place follow-up calls, promising that your money can be returned if you follow a few steps. Many of these fraudulent caller organizations work in tandem to take advantage of elderly citizens. The sad news is that in San Diego and around the country, telemarketing and call scams are on the rise, and prove to be a real danger for the financial stability of America’s elder population.

Call center scams wherein callers identify themselves as IRS officials seeking allegedly unpaid taxes from call victims have been ongoing for years. This scam is particularly devastating to elders as many individuals have fallen victim to this prevalent and heinous act of financial elder abuse.

irsscam1Fortunately, 70 people in New Delhi, India were recently arrested in relation to the IRS phone scam, as reported by ABC. According to the ABC report, the scam was averaging about $150,000 a day in returns—and some $55 million in one year—for just one call center, as con artists abroad targeted Americans by phone.

Thankfully, many of the operation’s ringleaders were arrested by Indian police officials, and are likely to face charges of extortion, impersonation, and violations of a host of Indian information technology laws. In addition, at least 600 people are being questioned in relation to these call center scams, after a raid on the center yielded a massive amount of potential evidence, including hundreds of hard drives, hard disks, servers, and other equipment. As the result, Indian police have said that many more of these scammers are likely to be charged with various crimes.

According to a recent report from The New York Times, taking nursing home abuse claims to court has just become easier for residents and their families. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, an agency within the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, issued new rules regarding a longstanding practice wherein nursing homes stipulated in their resident contracts that any disputes or claims of abuse would be resolved in arbitration. The Federal government’s new rules now allow for nursing home residents to take their claims to court, making it far easier to seek meaningful justice.

2The U.S. nursing home industry is a massive and lucrative one, particularly in Southern California. Additionally, a vast number of nursing home residents rely on government programs such as Medicaid and Medicare to subsidize their care. As such, those nursing homes receiving their own share of Federal Aid to support their programming can no longer contractually bind complainants into private arbitration to resolve their claims. This new rule will go into effect as soon as November 2016, paving a new and more feasible avenue for Southern California nursing home abuse victims to take their claims to court. It’s important to note, however, that the rule will apply only to those moving into federally aided nursing homes after the November 2016 start date.

As projections for nursing home resident growth climb—particularly in high-populated metropolitan areas, such as, San Diego— it’s especially important that governmental change to nursing home policies are introduced. Some sources report that nearly a third of all licensed nursing homes in the U.S. have been cited for federal safety standard violations. Now that new rules have been introduced regarding elder abuse lawsuits and complaints, victims finally have fair recourse under the law.

cheryl_sherrell_arrest_1476753331438_48253754_ver1.0_640_480The Washington Post recently highlighted a tragic story of elder abuse that took place in San Diego— the story of a 90-year-old woman whose caretaker squatted in her client’s home and rented out rooms in it against her will. The victim, Fran Breslauer moved out of her home shortly after her husband’s passing, only to have a trusted caretaker, Cheryl Sherrell take over the home and refuse to leave.

This story of San Diego elder abuse worsens, as more details of Sherrell’s misconduct surface. According to reports, Sherrell had been hired as an aid for Fran Breslauer’s husband, Alan, during his final months, at their self-built home near the San Diego State University campus. The Breslauers lived there for six decades, only to be maliciously taken advantage of by the aid hired to nurse Alan Breslauer on his deathbed. Not long after she was hired, however, Sherrell was fired for improper conduct. Though she was provided with the appropriate 30-day notice of termination, Sherrell refused to leave the property even after Alan Breslauer died.

In a further disturbing turn of events, Sherrell shifted towards violence while she squatted in the Breslauer home. She threw Fran Breslauer’s car keys at her and adjusted the water heater to its hottest setting, so that Fran suffered burns from the scorching water temperature. Finally, a few months after Sherrell’s squatting began, she was issued an official restraining order and was removed from the house. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there.

ISE_webbanner_768x180It is an unfortunate fact that elder abuse is a common and growing problem in San Diego and throughout the United States. Abuse of the elderly can take many forms, ranging from neglect and abandonment to physical, verbal, financial, and even sexual abuse. Fortunately, professionals in health care are constantly working towards new breakthroughs in treatment and the prevention of abuse in the elderly population. It’s true that new research and techniques are changing the face of convalescent care every day.

As the population of elders in San Diego continues to grow, it’s also encouraging to see the elder abuse epidemic be drawn out of the shadows and into the light, so we can all learn to recognize symptoms of elder abuse, and report any suspicions. One such example of shining a light on elder abuse prevention will be coming to Southern California next month.

On September 15, 2016 the 2-day USC Judith D. Tamkin International Symposium on Elder Abuse will welcome “researchers, academics, physicians, nurses, and psychologists” to participate in a weekend committed to “Closing the Research Gaps and Moving the Field of Elder Abuse Forward.”

man staring out windowWe all have family members that we love and want only the best for. As our parents and other family members reach an age where they may need assisted living or an in-home nurse, the last thing we want to worry about is neglect or abuse. Although stories of abuse suffered by elders at the hands of nursing home staff, or as the result of neglect, there are rarely reports of patient on patient abuse. However, a June 2016 study published by the Annals of Internal Medicine online reveals that more nursing home patients may be suffering from abuse at the hands of their fellow residents than previously known.

This new study from the Annals of Internal Medicine aims to shed some light on the much overlooked issue. When asked if a patient had encountered abuse, 1 in 5 residents stated they had in the past month. This is significant, because it not only shows that 20% of nursing home residents experience abuse, but is possibly indicative of a routine problem of systematic abuse.

Most commonly, the abuse suffered by elder victims is being on the receiving end of a verbal assault or being witness to behavior that would be considered unacceptable in nearly every public situation. Specifically, the study describes this form of abuse as “negative and aggressive physical, sexual, or verbal interaction between long-term care residents that in a community setting would likely be construed as unwelcome and have high potential to cause physical or psychological distress in the recipient.” Although most encounters were verbal, the study also revealed incidents of physical and sexual abuse between residents.

locked-houseWhen considering types of elder abuse, neglect and abandonment often come to mind. It is an unpleasant fact however, that elder abuse can and does take many different forms. Financial abuse, for example, can often be just as devastating to a victim as neglect or even physical abuse is. When a person on a fixed income is taken advantage of financially, these victims typically have little to no means of recovering their assets. This is particularly true of elders in Southern California, who are often defenseless or unaware of potential threats— making them easy prey for scammers.

In a case that’s garnered a lot of media attention, two convicted felons were recently charged with holding an 84-year-old woman against her will along with stealing money from the woman and her husband. Here’s an overview of that story:

In August of 2015, 53-year-old Wayne Kim Golden, and his girlfriend, 52, made an agreement with the 84-year-old victim to house her 94-year-old husband with Alzheimer’s, who needed full time in-home care. At some point, Shillings showed up at the female victim’s home in Menifee where the victim still lived independently, and took her back to the residence in Perris where Shillings and Golden cared for her husband. Once at the home, Shilling confiscated the 84-year-old’s car keys and check book, and held her hostage in her home for two weeks.

Neglect is one of the most common forms of senior abuse in San Diego and around the country. According to the California Department of Public Health’s Nursing Home Residents’ Rights, malnutrition constitutes a form of neglect, and thus—elder abuse.

Nursing homes in San Diego have a legal responsibility to ensure that residents are properly nourished. Nursing home staff must monitor residents during mealtime to ensure that all residents are being properly fed. Likewise, failure to provide appropriately nutritious meals is a serious form of senior neglect.

Warning signs, symptoms, and indications that an elderly loved one in San Diego could be suffering from malnutrition as a result of a neglectful or abusive caregiver or nursing home staff member, include:badfood

scam-onphoneThe National Council on Aging (NCOA) has called financial abuse in elders “the crime of the century,” due to its prevalence in the senior community. In San Diego, as in the rest of the country, seniors are often directly targeted for financial scams—frequently through telemarketing schemes—that prey upon the weaknesses of the elderly.

There are various types of financial and telemarketing schemes that target the elderly, including:

  • Investment Schemes

According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA) “financial scams targeting seniors have become so prevalent that they’re now considered the crime of the 21st century.” There are all types of financial fraud including, investment schemes, lottery scams, funeral scams, and telemarketing fraud. Telemarketing fraudsters often try to sell low-cost vitamins, health care products, cheap vacations, and “free” prizes. Trying to scam an elderly person over the phone, gives the perpetrator the advantage of anonymity as well as the element of surprise.

Elder-on-phone-300x238-386x386.jpgAlthough anyone can be a victim of telemarketing fraud, the senior citizen community is especially vulnerable. What makes them susceptible and why are they being targeted?

• They may make poor witnesses – an elderly person may not remember the details of the conversation clearly.

• They are reluctant to report – often times crimes go completely unreported, due to embarrassment of the situation or because the victim isn’t aware of any resources to seek help.

• They have a retirement savings and great credit – a retiree usually has very little debt and a sizeable nest egg, making them prime candidates for financial elder abuse.

• They are polite and trusting – a senior may not want to appear rude to the caller, hesitating to hang up or say no, especially if the caller is adamant.

• They have hope – fraudsters feed on an elderly person’s desire to be healthy and stay young, offering anti-aging products or “miracle drugs.”

What can be done to avoid fraud?

• Never, ever send money to “pay the taxes” on a free prize. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, “if a caller tells you the payment is for taxes, he or she is violating federal law.”

• Avoid dealing with unfamiliar companies, and if you do, check with organizations like the Better Business Bureau.

• Never give out unsolicited personal information over the phone like social security numbers, credit card numbers, or bank account information.

• Be cautious when considering donations to charity. Many organizations are legitimate, but many are not. A little bit of research now could save a lot of trouble later.

• Be informed! Gather as much information as possible about the company or person you’re considering doing business with.

• Don’t be afraid to say, “No, thank you,” and hang up. It’s okay to tell the caller “No,” even if he/she doesn’t want to take no for an answer.

It’s important to be diligent and discerning when handling telemarketing calls; awareness of fraudulent activity is the best protection against it. Also, reporting potential fraud in a timely manner can minimize the damage and help prevent someone else from becoming a victim.
Continue reading