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Financial abuse gets deserved attention

Register • Nov 20, 2013 at 10:59 PM

According to the Elder Financial Protection Network (bewiseonline.org) “Financial elder abuse is under reported and takes place in a variety of ways. Family members are the most common perpetrators.” “In 2009, MetLife Mature Market Institute released a report, Broken Trust: Elders, Family and Finances, stating that up to one million older Americans may be targeted yearly.” Based on our agency’s limited experience, I suspect this is a very conservative figure.

In 2009 and before, Serving Our Seniors rarely received a call from anyone expressing concern about someone taking advantage of a senior citizen’s finances. We did get calls, but it was rare. From July through September alone, Serving Our Seniors has received 23 calls from the victim or others who suspect a senior is being manipulated out of their money or overtly exploited by phone or computer.

This has finally gotten the attention of the federal government because the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging has established a new “antifraud hotline” (855-303-9470) and enhanced website aging.senate.gov/fraud-hotline to assist in tracking the extent of this problem.

According to the press release, “The investigators, who have experience with investment scams, identity theft, bogus sweepstakes and lottery schemes, Medicare and Social Security fraud, and a variety of other senior exploitation issues, will directly examine complaints and, if appropriate, refer them to the proper authorities.”

I called the hotline to make sure I had a proper understanding of the investigators’ roles and the role of the hotline.

It was clear that if you were victimized by one of the Jamaican Lottery Scams or the Canadian Lottery Scams, it is highly unlikely you will get your money back. But what is clear is the importance of having a central call center so the patterns and trends of what financial crimes are being committed against senior citizens can be tracked.

Gathering information on the extent to which a senior is being exploited, by whom and where in the U.S. it is occurring most is very important. It gives justification for action that needs to be taken. With justification comes the funding necessary to find these con artists accountable for their actions.

Those who have been exploited/ scammed know there are feelings of shame and embarrassment when being a victim of this type of crime. This reduces the likelihood of the crime being reported, which is unfortunate. Failing to report just makes it easier for the predator to move on to another victim. If this is a concern of yours, please know you can report to the anti-fraud hotline or on their website, and you do not have to share your identity.

If you are an Erie County senior citizen and would like assistance making that call to the anti-fraud hotline or using the enhanced website to report financial elder abuse, Serving Our Seniors can help you. To learn more, call us at 419-624-1856 or 800-564-1856.

Ask Serving Our Seniors

Q: I am curious about changes I have noticed in my father’s memory. I don’t think it’s anything to worry about, but I’m not sure. What’s available for me to find out more?

A: Come to “Chat with Brenda.” Brenda Hendricks is a gerontologist with the Alzheimer’s Association of NW Ohio. She comes to Sandusky the third Thursday of each month. This month she will be at the Sandusky Library at the Community Meeting Room. No appointment needed. Just drop in for as long (or as short) as you want between 1 and 2 p.m.

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