Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Stealing From Easy targets : Fastest Growing Category of Elder Abuse

Dean Mosiman608-252-6141

They have cash and property.

Some are alone and frail. Others are sharp and socially connected.

And they're being robbed, sometimes losing small sums, sometimes life savings, to family, friends, caregivers and scam artists.

Stealing is the fastest growing category of elder abuse in Wisconsin, government data show.

Thieves are exploiting gaping holes in the public safety net, the Wisconsin State Journal found in an eight-month investigation of elder abuse in the state. Among the newspaper's findings:

• The state doesn't force financial institutions to alert police to suspicious transactions.

• Too few police and elder abuse investigators have expertise and training in financial crimes, which can be time-consuming and hard to prove.

• Crooks can use the same laws and financial tools — power of attorney, quitclaim deeds, joint bank accounts — that let a good-hearted caregiver or guardian manage a faltering elder's financial affairs.

As few as one in 25 financial crimes against elders is ever reported, one study estimated.

Most of it goes undetected, unreported or unprosecuted, experts say, because the victims are often too ashamed to speak up. They don't want to report family or caregivers who steal but also help them stay independent. Or they're afraid of the perpetrator or the court process.

"By the time we see it, $20,000 to $30,000 is lost," said Scott Martin, one of Dane County's three elder abuse investigators. "We see at least five a year this size."

Abridged Click Here for Case Histories =>>

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