As we recognize World Elder Abuse Awareness Day today, we are reminded of a sobering fact: senior citizens are an especially vulnerable segment of the population.
Financial exploitation costs older Americans an estimated $36.5 billion per year and has been called a “public health crisis.” As the population ages, the largest wealth transfer in history is happening now, meaning a majority of wealth is in the hands of citizens over the age of 65.
Unfortunately, this means that Americans aged 65 and older are becoming the focus of fraudsters who are developing more and more sophisticated means of stealing the hard-earned savings of people. As the saying goes “knowledge is power.” Being aware of the common scams and how one can protect oneself can go a long way:
Both were written by the National Council on Aging (NCOA), a respected national leader and trusted partner to help people aged 60+ meet the challenges of aging. NCOA partners with nonprofit organizations, government, and business to provide innovative community programs and services, online help, and advocacy. Below you will find helpful information from the NCOA on warning signs that may indicate financial abuse, and what to do if you, or someone you love, is the victim of a scam.
Protect Your Loved Ones: Signs to Look For
If you know or care for an older adult, here are some additional warning signs that may indicate they are the victim of financial abuse:
There are unusual recent changes in the person’s accounts, including atypical withdrawals, new person(s) added, or sudden use of a senior’s ATM or credit card.
The senior suddenly appears confused, unkempt, and afraid.
Utility, rent, mortgage, medical, or other essential bills are unpaid despite adequate income.
A caregiver will not allow others access to the senior.
There are piled up sweepstakes mailings, magazine subscriptions, or “free gifts,” which means they may be on “sucker lists.”
Every state operates an Adult Protective Services (APS) program, which is responsible for receiving and investigating reports of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation, and in most states, the abuse of younger adults with severe disabilities.
APS is the “911” for elder abuse. Anyone who suspects elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation should make a report. The reporter’s identity is protected. APS services are confidential, so the reporter may not be able to learn the outcome of the case. APS respects the right of older persons to make their own decisions and to live their lives on their own terms. In cases of cognitive impairment, however, APS will take steps to protect the older person to the degree possible.
Steps to Take if You’re a Victim of a Scam
If you suspect you’ve been the victim of a scam…
Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to talk about it with someone you trust. You are not alone, and there are people who can help. Doing nothing could only make it worse. Keep handy the phone numbers and resources you can turn to, including the local police, your bank (if money has been taken from your accounts), and Adult Protective Services. To obtain the contact information for Adult Protective Services in your area, call the Eldercare Locator, a government sponsored national resource line, at: 1-800-677-1116, or visit their website at: https://eldercare.acl.gov.
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