Sunday, October 31, 2010

Studies Confirm Financial Exploitation Is One Of The Fastest Growing Forms of Elder Abuse

By John North, Better Business 
Bureau Saturday, October 30, 2010

A bank called Montgomery County Adult Protective Services concerning unusual activity in a 92-year-old man’s bank account. It was discovered he was writing checks totaling $2,000 a day to neighbors. He had signed the checks, but the neighbors were writing out the rest of them. More than $700,000 was lost. Stories like this happen in our community daily.

Financial exploitation is one of the fastest growing forms of elder abuse. A study estimates there is $2.6 billion in senior financial fraud annually. An Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services report estimated more than 2,500 reports of senior exploitation in Ohio and APS reported more than 210 local cases in 2009.

Exploitation is the unlawful or improper act of obtaining or using a vulnerable adult’s funds, credit, assets or other property with intent to deprive them for the benefit of someone other than the vulnerable adult. Signs of exploitation include:

• Sudden changes in bank accounts or banking practices, including unexplained withdrawals by people accompanying seniors.

• Suspicious activity on credit cards.

• Abrupt changes in wills or financial documents.

• Forged signatures for financial transactions.

Seniors are targeted because they account for 70 percent of U.S. households’ net worth. They’re polite, trusting, fear losing their freedom and physical harm. Many are ashamed of being scammed or don’t know they’ve been scammed.

The best defense is knowledge. The Better Business Bureau advises seniors to:

• Get advice from trusted family members, friends, lawyers or bankers.

• Never give out personal information to unfamiliar people or companies.

• Get everything in writing.

• Be sure blanks are completed and review and understand contracts before signing.

• Use direct deposit for checks to prevent interception.

• Beware of unsolicited notifications with phony checks claiming you’ve won.

• Avoid high-pressure or scare tactics.

• Review bank, insurance, credit card and medical bill statements regularly.

Locally, the BBB is represented on the Collaboration Against Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation, a multi-disciplinary team formed to prevent and eliminate elder abuse, neglect and the exploitation of older and vulnerable adults through education, advocacy, intervention and services. Contact the BBB for more information on elderly fraud. Visit or call (937) 222-5825 (937) 222-5825 or (800) 776-5301

John North is president and CEO of the Dayton Better Business Bureau.

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