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Elder Abuse and Elders Rights

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Have you ever sat and had a nice conversation with an older person? To sit and listen to their stories of marriage and love and family. To hear their tales of going off to war or living through tough times of having nothing but continuing to save for their autumn years. People who have grown up in times without cellphones, computers and internet. People who grew up in times when your neighbors looked out for you. Times when people weren’t out to make a quick buck. People who could identify a snake oil salesman. Times when people weren’t willing to use the name of someone’s family to swindle a quick buck. I am not sure when our society decided it would be acceptable to allow people to prey on the goodness of elderly people.

I have a friend who works at the service counter of a department store. They are not allowed to question people who send off money orders to foreign countries. She reached a point where she couldn’t stand by and watch any longer. She shared this story with me. “Louise” came in to send a money order off to get her grandson out of jail in Mexico. One day her phone rang, and it was someone with a heavy accent that called to tell her that her grandson was arrested in Mexico! They were willing to release him without charges if she would send them a thousand dollars before noon the following day. She was instructed NOT to contact his parents and to keep this to herself of he would be put in with the bad drug dealers. Louise had not spoken to her family in a couple days and knew her grandson was away at college. Perhaps he had taken a brief vacation to Mexico? Why wouldn’t her daughter have mentioned it to her? She did as she was told and went to bank and got out money and was going to send it Western Union to get her grandson released.

My friend has known the family for years and when Louise was in the store my friend became suspicious… she had just seen the grandson at church two days prior. She asked Louise to wait until she went on break so they could talk about it. As they sat and had a cup of coffee, my friend got online and looked up the number she was sending money to. It was in Nigeria not Mexico. They then placed a call to her daughter who put the grandson on a three-way call. The grandson was safe at school! The family got in touch with law enforcement who are struggling with where jurisdiction in the case lies. And did a crime really take place because my friend stepped in?

Senior citizens especially should be aware of fraud schemes for the following reasons:

  • Senior citizens are most likely to have a “nest egg,” to own their home, and/or to have excellent credit—all of which make them attractive to con artists.
  • People who grew up in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s were generally raised to be polite and trusting. Con artists exploit these traits, knowing that it is difficult or impossible for these individuals to say “no” or just hang up the telephone.
  • Older Americans are less likely to report a fraud because they don’t know who to report it to, are too ashamed at having been scammed, or don’t know they have been scammed. Elderly victims may not report crimes, for example, because they are concerned that relatives may think the victims no longer have the mental capacity to take care of their own financial affairs.
  • When an elderly victim does report the crime or contact an elder abuse attorney in Los Angeles and Orange County, they often make poor witnesses. Con artists know the effects of age on memory, and they are counting on elderly victims not being able to supply enough detailed information to investigators. In addition, the victims’ realization that they have been swindled may take weeks—or more likely, months—after contact with the fraudster. This extended time frame makes it even more difficult to remember details from the events.

But there’s still a long way to go in stopping fraud against senior citizens, and individuals are still the first line of defense. Here are five ways families can help ensure the safety of the elderly:

  • Regularly call or visit. Be suspicious if a senior citizen has a new “best friend,” becomes socially isolated, never seems to be available or able to come to the phone or is hesitant to have contact with others unless a caregiver is present. This could indicate that someone has undue influence on the senior’s behavior and decision-making.
  • Block solicitations. opt out of commercial mail solicitations. You can arrange for a ban of five years at a time with the Direct Marketing Association’s. To eliminate unsolicited offers for credit, go to optoutprescreen.com. Use your phone service’s anti-robocall service, using a third-party call-blocking service or device, or using a call-screening tool.
  • Set up safeguards at the bank. If you’re concerned about your relative’s financial decision-making, Open up a small account at a local bank for them. That account could, for instance, include a debit card and checking with a spending limit of, say, $300. That way, any other finances can be saved in a separate, more secure account.

We have to do a better job at protecting our seniors. My friend almost lost her job because she questioned “why”. Our banks and service employees need to ask those questions. We need to step up our game. Bottom line is the best way to protect your senior citizen family members is BE PRESENT! Call and check on them regularly. Inform them of your vacation plans or notify if going out of town. It would be a dream world if we could just have decency to say “dude you don’t do that to grandma” but unfortunately that is not the world we live in today. So, until we find an alternate protection, it’s up to families to educate and keep an eye out.


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