How to stop senior financial fraud and abuse
Are your elderly parents or grandparents at risk for financial abuse? Sadly, the chances may be more likely than you think.
Last week the U.S. Senate’s Special Committee on Aging convened to discuss one of the most shocking problems in our country: Senior citizens are suffering abuse—physical, financial, and more—and we don’t have the resources to stop it. At least, not yet…
Thankfully, Senator Herb Kohl of Wisconsin is taking a stand. At the hearing, he announced that he is reintroducing his “Elder Abuse Victims Act.” The bill will establish a first-ever Office of Elder Justice within the Justice Department that will protect America’s seniors by strengthening law enforcement response to this issue. He will also introduce the “End Abuse in Later Life Act” and continue as a co-sponsor of the “Senior Financial Empowerment Act.”
To support the need for these bills, a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released at the hearing revealed that 14% of non-institutionalized older adults experienced some form of maltreatment in 2009. And a study on elder abuse in New York that was referenced in the hearing found that financial abuse is the most common form, and that the vast majority of incidents go unreported.
At the hearing, actor Mickey Rooney also shared his personal story of being a victim of financial fraud, allegedly by his stepson. Reports show that although some seniors are exploited by strangers, others are taken advantage of by spouses, family members, personal acquaintances, or professionals in positions of trust. They exploit the elderly person through theft, fraud, or influence as a way to gain control over that person’s money or property.
14% of non-institutionalized older adults experienced some form of maltreatment in 2009.
Legislation is a vital step in stopping the issue before it starts. According to Cindy Housell, the President of WISER (Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement) who attended the hearing, bank employees often suspect these injustices are happening to elderly people who come in, but have no guidelines as to how far they can go to protect the person. Most of the time, bankers are able to step in and help their elderly client, but other times they’ve been accused of overstepping their bounds.
Until these bills move forward, victims of any kind of abuse should report it to their state’s Adult Protective Services (APS) office, which you can find by clicking on “report abuse” at the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA) website. Additional resources can be found through the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA). However, even though these services have the term “National” in the title, it’s a misnomer, since they operate on a state-by-state level. That’s why at the hearing Kathleen Quinn, director of NAPSA, is calling for a national resource center, a key step in truly protecting our elderly parents and community.
Let’s hope progress is quick and thorough.