Financial exploitation is a significant concern. It occurs when criminals operate in the open with the victims' alleged consent. It can happen at a care facility, in the community, or even in the home. These predators on the elderly can be complete strangers, caregivers, telemarketers, friends or family members.
The state of Maryland recently launched its first-ever “PROTECT Week” to raise awareness about elder financial abuse and prevention. The week-long campaign is made possible by a collaboration of public and private partners. Local, regional, and state organizations have joined together to raise awareness about elder financial abuse. Education and awareness are critical to preventing older adults from becoming victims, officials say. The Maryland Comptroller’s office reported that in the past decade, it has detected and blocked more than 80,000 fraudulent tax returns worth over $185 million. It guesstimates that 20% of Maryland adults aged 65 and older have been a victim of elder financial abuse. Losses have totaled up to $120,000 per elder financial abuse victim.
In 2013, Maryland law started mandating that banks and credit unions report suspected financial exploitation of citizens over age 65. AARP started its Fraud Watch Network two years ago, which is aimed at thwarting the growing fraud problem among the elderly. Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh appointed a dedicated Senior Asset Recovery Unit in 2017 that investigated and sued on behalf of victims of elder financial abuse in Maryland.
Like anywhere else in the United States, officials say that it’s hard to ascertain the extent of the problem in Maryland. This is because most cases go unreported. Many seniors believe that it will never happen to them. However, even if you don’t necessarily match the stereotype, it doesn’t mean you’re protected from harm. These criminals don’t discriminate based on income level, gender or age.
Anyone who suspects that an elderly friend or loved one is being exploited, should contact law enforcement or a local long-term care ombudsman. Suspicion of financial exploitation of elders can and should also be reported to the authorities.
Reference: Baltimore Sun (January 7, 2018) “Stopping elder fraud in Maryland”