Articles Posted in Financial Abuse

senior_financial_troubles-300x200Identity theft continues to arise as a harsh reality for millions of Americans each year. In fact, according to the Justice Department, more than 11 million Americans fall victim to some form of identity theft/fraud each year. That accounts for more than $20 billion in lost money, with the average injury to victims at more than $4,000.

Elders may be at an increased risk of becoming victims of identity theft because according to information provided by the FTC, “Senior citizens are particularly vulnerable to this crime because their personal information may be easily accessible by numerous individuals.”

Unfortunately for elders, particularly those in nursing homes, this does ring true. Personal and sensitive information may be attained by those with bad intentions. Therefore, it is important that elders and their loved ones keep a close eye on personal information, including social security numbers, driver’s licenses and credit cards. These identifying numbers and accounts can be accessed easily, and drain an elder of savings in some cases. In others debt in an elder’s name may be accrued.

mandated-reporting-300x213-300x213While Mandated Reporters are required to report elder abuse within 48 hours and know who to report the abuse to, many non-mandated reporters suspect Elder Abuse, but don’t know where to turn. The general rule of thumb is to always err on the side of caution when suspecting elder abuse. Unfortunately, if unreported, elder abuse often escalates, and all too often the results are tragic. If you suspect an elder you know is being abused, report it immediately. You may be saving the health, assets, or even the life of an elder who may be too afraid to report the abuse themselves.

There are numerous ways to report suspected elder abuse, and it is probably much easier than you think. Furthermore you will be protected from criminal or civil liability, so do not let the fear of retribution prevent you from ever reporting abuse.

If you suspect an elder is being abused in any capacity, while in a long-term care facility such as a nursing home; report the incident to both the Local Long-Term Care Ombudsman and the California Department of Public Health. You should also consider reporting to Adult Protective Services Agency.

In its simplest form, financial elder abuse involves taking money or property from an elderly person with the intent to defraud them. It is a growing problem in California given the state’s increasing senior population. The signs of financial elder abuse can be difficult to see. Though the presence of any of the following signs associated with financial elder abuse is not absolute evidence of abuse, it should prompt further investigation:

• Elder is withdrawn.

• Elder is confused and tends to be more forgetful than usual.

The elderly are prime targets for financial scams. Persons over the age of 50 control over 70% of the nation’s wealth. Yet senior citizens are more likely to have disabilities or impairments that make them vulnerable to manipulation and prevent them from taking action against their abusers. Some older people are unsophisticated about financial matters or unaware of how much their assets have appreciated. Others cannot help but follow a predictable pattern of receiving and cashing in their monthly checks, making it easy for predators to guess when they have money or need to go to the bank. Many times, the very family members and helpers they depend upon are the perpetrators who unduly influence and exploit them.

senior-wallet-1-300x200Financial abuse refers to the theft or embezzlement of an elder’s money or property. It includes a wide range of conduct, from the immediate theft of money and property to the use of deception, coercion, or undue influence over time. Perpetrators may also reap financial gain by forging the elder’s signature, forcing them to sign a deed, will, or power of attorney, placing charges on their credit cards without permission, or using any fraud, scam, or deceptive act to financially exploit the victim. Sadly, the perpetrator does not have to be in proximity with the victim; AARP estimates that Americans lose $40 billion each year to fraudulent sales pitches that promise a lottery win, prize win, travel package, or “amazing home loan.” Over 56% of the victims targeted are aged 50 or older. Some widespread forms of financial elder abuse include:

• Identity theft

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.

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.”

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.

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.
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