Showing posts with label elder financial abuse. Show all posts
Showing posts with label elder financial abuse. Show all posts

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Crime Against Senior Citizens

One personality trait that seems to take over when we retire is that we become much more relaxed about a lot of things that used to worry us.  When we become relaxed about how we spend our time, how late we stay up, or our vacation destinations, that is understandable and one of the advantages of being retired. 

However, sometimes people become alarmingly relaxed about their personal and financial security.  If that happens to you, it could put you in danger, as well as your loved ones.  It also could mean that you put at risk everything you have spent your life building.  Unfortunately, there are far too many people who prey on the elderly, taking advantage of their kindness and their trusting nature.  Don't let your retirement be ruined by predators.

Local Crime Against the Elderly

Our gated retirement community, Laguna Woods Village,which is considered one of the safest in the state of California, just released our latest crime statistics.  This data shows that residential burglaries in our town have tripled since 2007 and property crimes are at all-time highs.  Shown below are a few of the statistics listed for our neighborhood.

Between 2007 and 2013:

Burglaries increased from 13 to 20
Residential burglaries increased from 4 to 15
Thefts increased from 70 to 121
Bicycle thefts increased from 2 to 13
Thefts from cars increased from 11 to 24

These are significant increases in crime, especially considering that we live in a secured guard-gated, over-55 community with private security patrolling the streets 24 hours a day.  In addition, a high percentage of our residents are retired and home most of the time.

National Crime Statistics

Unfortunately, what is happening within our community is reflected across the country.  Incidents of crime against the elderly have become a serious national problem, according to a number of sources.  The types of crimes not only include burglary and property crimes, but theft of assets, fraud, physical and financial abuse and assaults.  Here are some of the troubling statistics I discovered:

In 1998, the National Center on Elder Abuse released an estimate that about 1/3 of the cases of elder abuse cases involved financial exploitation of some kind. Indications are that this type of crime has increased since then.

In 2000, the US Senate Special Committee on Aging reported $40 billion in losses to the elderly due to telemarketing fraud.  This number, as well, has certainly increased significantly in the past 13 years.

According to Project America, about 2.5 of every 1000 elderly citizens will experience a physical criminal attack each year.  The specific incidence of various types of physical attacks against the elderly are:

Rape or sexual assault:  0.1 per 1000
Robbery: 0.6 per 1000
Aggravated assault: 0.3 per 1000
Simple assault:  1.5 per 1000
Personal theft: 0.8 per 1000 

According to the website, every 2.7 minutes an elderly person is victimized in the U.S.  That is a horrifying statistic.

Actions You Can Take to Avoid Being a Victim of a Crime

Our local county sheriff's department published a list of suggestions to help the elderly reduce their chances of becoming crime victims.  While some of these suggestions seem obvious, I know that many residents of our neighborhood have become lax about basic security because they feel so safe living here.  A few suggestions are good reminders:

1.  Keep your doors and windows locked when you go out.  Make sure your locks are in good working order and you may also want to consider installing an alarm system.

2.  Put lights on timers when you are going to be out after dark.  This has the additional advantage of preventing accidents from trips and falls that can occur when you enter a dark house.

3.  Cancel newspapers when you are going to be gone or ask a neighbor to pick up your newspapers and mail.  Because so many people are home during the day in a retirement community, it should be easy to find someone to help you.

4.  If you have a computer, have a computer expert check it from time to time to make sure your firewall and anti-virus protection are the latest versions.  If a stranger calls and says they are trying to fix a virus on your computer, hang up.  Do not follow their instructions.  This is a popular scam that can allow them to trick you into loading a virus onto your computer ... that only the caller can repair!

5.  Do not give out personal information to anyone who calls you.  Your bank and credit card companies already have your account numbers.  Do not give this information out to anyone over the phone, unless you initiated the call in order to make a purchase.

6.  Ask for an I.D. from anyone who comes to your door and claims to be from a utility company or other local business.  If you have any doubts, call the utility company to confirm that they sent the person.

7.  Take pictures of your valuables and keep the photos in a safe place.  In addition, mark your valuables with an identification number, if possible.  This may make it easier to reclaim items that are stolen.

8.  Do not fall for requests for money from people pretending to be relatives.  It is one of the latest scams and, as I have mentioned before in this blog, several people I know have lost thousands of dollars in this way. Confirm, confirm, confirm.  Even if they ask you not to call anyone else in the family, call anyway.

9.  Do not leave valuables in plain view in your car.  Most thefts from cars occur when passersby see a cell phone, purse or other item in your car and they break a window and steal it.  Just a few weeks ago, someone broke several car windows at the stables in our retirement community.  While people were peacefully enjoying a trail ride, their purses were being stolen from their cars!

10.  Do not put your purse or wallet in the trunk of your car while standing in the parking lot of your gym, golf course or other public building.  Thieves hang around these place watching for people to put their valuables in the car trunks.  Then, while you are happily getting some exercise, they pop open your trunk and steal your belongings.  It just takes them seconds.

While some of the items listed above may just seem like good common sense, far too many elderly become lax as they age, especially if they feel they live in a safe area.  This is the time when you should become more vigilant than ever!

If you are retired or planning to retire soon, and you need additional information about how to have the best retirement possible, you may want to check out the blog posts listed in the index articles below.

Gifts, Travel and Family Relationships

Great Places for Boomers to Retire Overseas

Great Places to Retire in the United States

Health and Medical Topics for Baby Boomers

Money and Financial Planning for Retirement

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"Property Crimes Spike in City," Laguna Woods Globe - Orange County Register, August 15, 2013.

Photo of police car is courtesy of

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Fighting Elder Abuse Around the World

When I opened the weekly paper for my retirement village this morning, I was interested to see an article about World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.  Until I read the article, I didn't know there was a special day set aside to bring this sad reality to our attention.  Unfortunately, there is no question that it is necessary.  The day has been recognized since June 15, 2006 and is intended to help social workers, police, adult protective service workers, nursing home staff, family members and others who come in contact with the elderly to be better educated and able to recognize the signs of elder abuse.  The program was launched by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations.  Obviously, this is a problem around the world, as Japan recently passed a law allowing elderly parents to sue their adult children if the children neglect or fail to visit them.

Statistics on Elder Abuse in the US

According to representatives from the Ageless Alliance of Orange County, California, one in ten senior citizens is abused.  This amounts to approximately five million people nationwide.  Studies by the National Center on Elder Abuse have found that between 7.6% and 10% of seniors who were part of a study were willing to admit that they had experienced abuse in the prior year.  Sadly, there are indications that many seniors are reluctant to report it, although Adult Protective Services does believe there is a trend towards better reporting.

Financial abuse alone was reported in one study by 41 out of 1000 seniors who were surveyed.

The problem may even be much more serious than these numbers indicate, since the New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study discovered that for every one abused elderly person who comes to the attention of authorities, approximately twenty-four cases go unreported.

This seemed almost impossible for me to believe until I read about the different ways that seniors can be mistreated, often by the people they most trust.

Types of Elder Abuse

Seniors can be abused in a number of ways. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse website, it appears that more elderly women are abused than men and that the older a person is, the more likely that person is to be abused.  In approximately 90% of cases, family members, such as adult children or spouses, are most likely to be the abusers.  Researchers have also discovered that people with dementia are far more likely to be victims of elder abuse than those without.  Here are some common types of elder abuse:

Neglect:  This includes incidents in which either a paid caregiver or a member of the family fails to meet an elderly person's basic needs or protect them from harm.  This can happen whether the person is living in their own home or in a nursing home.  In fact, in one study done in the year 2000, 95% of nursing home residents said that either they had personally been neglected or they had seen another resident neglected.  Since so many of us may eventually need to spend our last few months or years in a skilled nursing facility, I found this statistic particularly alarming.

Emotional Abuse:  Emotional abuse can include berating, threatening or demeaning an elderly person.  Emotional abuse may cause significant psychological distress and lower self-esteem.

Physical Abuse:  Physical violence against the elderly can increase other health problems and bring on depression or anxiety.  The victims also have a 300% higher risk of death when they are compared to people who have not been physically abused.

Financial Abuse:  Many seniors are especially reluctant to let their family members know when they have been taken advantage of financially, because they don't want to appear to be incapable of handling their own money.  They are often afraid they will lose their financial and personal freedom if their children learn what happened to them.  As a result, they may be the victim of a scam and never say anything to anyone.  As I have reported before in this blog, I have known two different intelligent, well-educated people who were victimized by scammers pretending to be relatives and asking that money be wired to them.  Both of my friends were horrified that they could be so gullible.

Sexual Abuse: Believe it or not, even bed-ridden elderly women have been raped.  To make matters worse, they are often not believed when they report it, which allows the perpetrator freedom to continue to abuse that person or another elderly person in their care.

Examples of Elder Abuse

There are undoubtedly millions of examples of Elder Abuse that have occurred in this country.  One case which was reported in my local newspaper occurred when an 85 year old woman allowed her only son to come stay with her.  He was actively using drugs and alcohol, his wife had left him and he had lost his job.

Before long, her son was growing marijuana on the patio of her retirement condo and threatening that he would report her for being incompetent to handle her own finances so that he could be appointed her conservator.  She was terrified of her son and his threats, although she eventually turned to social services for help.

In another case, our local newspaper reported on the case of a 76 year old man who remarried.  Within four years, his wife had sold everything of value that he owned and left him with $100,000 in credit card debt.   This may not be an unusual situation, since the father of a friend of mine had a similar experience when he remarried late in life.  My friend eventually had to assist her father in filing for both divorce and bankruptcy.

As you can see, elder abuse is something we all need to know about.  It can happen in anyone's family.


National Center on Elder Abuse website:

You may also want to read:  The Ultimate Internet Safety Guide for Seniors

Another good option is:  "Elder Abuse Prevention Resource Guide"
"Village Recognizes World Elder Abuse Awareness Day" Laguna Woods Globe, Thursday, July 11, 2013.

If you are interested in information on retirement planning for yourself or your parents, or want to learn about Medicare, Social Security, financial planning, where to retire and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.  Each ones contains an introduction and links to a number of articles on that topic.

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Photo of elderly woman courtesy of