Monday, March 3, 2008

"It's Like Open Season On Seniors."

Greensboro News Record - Greensboro, NC,USA Contact Jennifer Fernandez at 336-373-7064 or

Retirement had been good to May.She inherited her mother's house in Greensboro and sold her own. She took cruises with friends and traveled to Hawaii .

But then May, 76, fell into a trap that increasingly is snaring her generation.
A telemarketing scam.May gave away her $100,000 life savings before realizing the "big prize" she was promised didn't exist.

Studies show that elder abuse, like child abuse and sexual abuse, often goes undetected or unreported. And signs point to an increase in elder abuse, especially financial exploitation — including telemarketing scams and caretakers and family members stealing money or property.

A 1999 National Consumers League report estimated that the elderly made up 56 percent to 80 percent of intended telemarketing fraud victims. A 2006 report from an assistant North Carolina attorney general put that figure at close to 90 percent.

Getting Scammed

But seniors are a prime target, studies show. May got pulled in last September when the call came that she'd won a major prize from "Publisher's." She thought it was a legitimate call from Publishers Clearing House, the Greensboro resident says.

In Guilford County, 18 percent of reports to Adult Protective Services last fiscal year involved financial exploitation.Abuse accounts for another 18 percent of Guilford's reports, while self- and caretaker neglect make up the majority, records show.

But it is the rising attack on seniors' financial resources that troubles Felissa Ferrell , program manager for Adult, Prevention and Human Services in Rockingham County's Department of Social Services . She turned over five cases to law enforcement in one week last month, Ferrell says.

"It's very easy when you see a disabled person or elderly person ... it's easy to take advantage of them," she says.Besides traveling, she also liked to make weekend dinners for a group of elderly women, some of whom were friends of her mother. But May can't afford any of that now.She says the police told her they couldn't help because it is out of their jurisdiction.

"It's a serious matter, and it's not getting any better," Boyd says. "It's like open season on seniors."

Legislators have introduced an "Elder Justice Act" in Congress several times since 2002 to address some of those issues. The latest versions sit frozen in subcommittees of both the House and Senate.

"And they're laughing," she says, the tears finally escaping. "And we're crying."

"Nobody," May says, "is there to protect us."

Abridged and Edited for E.A. =>>

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