Monday, March 31, 2014

Preventing Elder Abuse

Happy Monday!!!  Elder Abuse is a growing concern among the elderly and their families and so I want to address some of the issues we see and what you can do to be aware and protect yourself and your loved ones.

Before I start, just a quick note.  I am available to give presentations to groups on any of the topics you see posted on this blog.  Just give a call to our office to schedule (858-779-9254).

Now, on with the daily topic.  Fortunately I do believe that most older adults receiving in-home services or interacting with the community are safe and well cared for.  Unfortunately the occasional bad apple is the one that is highly publicized.  That said, there are scams and unscrupulous people out there but, with a little caution and common sense, you can navigate away from those people and situations that put you at risk.  Today I'm going to cover 4 primary topics.

1.  PHONE SCAMS:  I'm going to talk about two types of phone scams.  The first is an old scam but one that is continually effective.  An example is that you will get a call from someone claiming either to be a grandchild or the representative of a grandchild.  This grandchild is allegedly in trouble and they need you to wire money to them via Western Union to help get them out of trouble.  They will also say, not to tell mom and dad because they are very embarrassed about the situation.  They will make you swear not to tell anyone and to wire the money ASAP--frequently out of the country.

You may assume that this is always a scam.  If in doubt, call the grandchild's parents and ask if all is well.  Then call the police and give them the details of the scam.

The other type of phone scam is that someone will call alleging to be from a utility company and that they would like to come by and see if they can save you money on your utility bill.  The utility company will never call you unsolicited.  If in doubt, call them and verify.  This type of scam happened to my elderly cousin, and when the perpetrator arrived he pulled out a gun.  This type of scammer may also try to force the elderly adult to the bank with a gun or knife in the back.  If this happens, just let the teller know that the person with you is forcing you.

There are also people that will target older adults on the street and tell a sob story about how they've lost everything and please help.  The kindhearted person can easily get scammed out of a lot of money.  If someone approaches you with this kind of story, direct them to Father Joe's Village or some other charitable organization that can properly assist.  

2.  INTERNET SCAMS:  The internet is a great tool but it also creates a lot of vulnerability.  Email is the biggest culprit.  We see more and more emails coming out saying that you need to reset your password, verify your account information, or open a file to verify your mortgage documentation.  These emails are always virus carriers or tools for identify theft. The simple rule of thumb is to never open an attachment unless it is a pdf from a family member and you were expecting the file to be sent.  And never open a zip file or a link within a file as these are always related to computer viruses and identity theft.

If you have gone to a link and given your account or other personal information, immediately get in touch with a family member who can help you take the steps to protect yourself and secure your accounts.

3.  UNSCRUPULOUS SERVICE PROVIDERS:  Whenever you are contracting with a service provider (such as in-home services, fiduciaries, attorneys, etc), check them out on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website.  If they are legitimate you will be able to read about them.  Although I personally always look for an accredited business to work with, there are a number of businesses are reliable and have a good rating on the BBB even though they are not accredited.

A client of ours got scammed out of $1,500 by an in-home health subscription service.  The service not legit and when I investigated, I found that the business had a D- BBB rating and the Attorneys General in two states was investigating them.  We were able to work with the client to get their money back but not without a great deal of effort and involvement by the police and Adult Protective Services.

There are also legitimate businesses that will oversell what a client needs because the elderly client may not understand everything that was presented.  One of our clients paid $1,600/person for a burial pre-need package that included many things they didn't want or need.  When you are making an investment in something, have a family member, fiduciary, or other trusted person present to make sure your best interests are always represented.

4.  ISOLATION:  There are many other types of elder abuse including financial abuse, physical abuse, and emotional abuse.  A lot of times these occur because a caregiver is isolating the older adult and the services are not being monitored.  If you are an older adult in this situation, immediately call the police.  There are very stringent laws that will protect you.

If you are the friend of an older adult and you are not able to get access to them due to isolating behaviors of a caregiver, call the police and or Adult Protective Services to report your concern. Don't assume that your friend or loved one is safe unless you are able to look them in the eye and verify that they are well cared for, safe, and their assets are in tact.

And, never give a caregiver power of attorney (POA) or control of bank accounts.  If the older adult is not able to manage their own accounts, have a fiduciary or family member with POA take care of that requirement. 

That's it for now.  Tomorrow is April Fools Day and I need to go and come up with some crazy antics to play on the ladies in the office.  I hope you all have a wonderful start to April.

Many blessings to you always.  Laura Barish