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Shining a light on financial exploitation

Bill Conallen

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD), observed annually on June 15 since 2006, underscores the global imperative to combat elder abuse. Initiated by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization, WEAAD serves as a catalyst for communities worldwide to deepen their understanding of the multifaceted impacts of elder abuse and neglect.

Financial exploitation inflicted upon older adults is one of the most common and devastating forms of elder abuse. It can destroy the financial security of an older adult at a vulnerable stage of life. Financial exploitation can negatively impact physical and emotional health or shorten an older person’s lifespan.

“Scams and financial exploitation against older adults are not only a breach of trust but also a grave injustice that can rob them of their financial security and overall well-being,” said Tamikia Morris, director of Older Adult Protective Services at PCA. “It’s imperative that we prioritize safeguarding older adults from such exploitation to ensure that people live longer with dignity and peace of mind.”

PCA’s Older Adult Protective Services seeks to proactively shield older adults from financial exploitation by equipping them with the tools to identify and thwart such threats. Through education and empowerment, it attempts to arm older adults with the knowledge necessary to safeguard their finances effectively.

“In instances of victimization, our investigative efforts may involve collaboration with law enforcement to pursue justice and recover lost assets for the affected individuals,” said Morris. “Additionally, we extend our outreach to educate both older adults and their caregivers, raising awareness about the signs of financial exploitation and offering guidance to shield them from scams and fraud.”

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, few cases of financial exploitation, relative to the number of victims, are ever raised to the attention of law enforcement or protective services. Estimates of annual losses to older Americans range widely but are in the billions. Though progress has been made in the past nineteen years, WEAAD also serves as a reminder that there is a long way to go in the fight against elder financial exploitation.

On June 11, PCA will host a panel discussion which will delve into the critical topic of preventing financial exploitation and navigating scams effectively. The event will feature a lineup of expert local panelists poised to share practical insights and strategies aimed at bolstering attendees’ financial security and resilience against fraudulent schemes. This session hopes to equip participants with invaluable knowledge to navigate the complexities of safeguarding their finances and identities.

Financial exploitation can profoundly impact the well-being of older adults. As Morris notes, it extends beyond stealing your money. It also includes other fraudulent ways of controlling your assets. Disturbingly, there have been cases where older adults were forced into signing over their homes to others. In some cases, relatives have misused older adults’ credit cards. These are just a few examples of the many types of scams out there.

Morris has also noted an uptick in instances where older adults fall victim to romance scams. “These are particularly challenging because many older adults, grappling with loneliness, crave companionship,” she observed. “Thus, they place their trust in these relationships formed over the phone or computer. It becomes a lifeline for them, a source of solace and support. Perpetrators exploit this vulnerability, especially when older adults find themselves isolated within their communities.”

Despite the challenges posed by financial exploitation and other forms of elder abuse, PCA remains focused on its mission to protect older adults. With more than 9,000 reports of elder abuse received annually, PCA’s Helpline serves as a vital resource for concerned individuals to report suspected instances of abuse. Importantly, all reports are treated with confidentiality, ensuring the safety and anonymity of older adults and their caregivers.

Anyone can make a report of suspected abuse against an older Philadelphian, including strangers, family members, friends, neighbors, church members, medical professionals, home health care workers and older adult abuse victims. These reports are subject to confidentiality.

“Abuse is a major allegation, whether financial or otherwise, that we take very seriously. When we hear about it, we fully investigate it with extreme care,” Morris said. “In the process, we have the opportunity to mitigate risk, harm or injury to an older adult.”

Reports of financial exploitation and other forms of elder abuse of older Philadelphians can be made 24/7 to the PCA Helpline at 215-765-9040.

PCA will present a World Elder Abuse Awareness Day panel discussion about preventing financial exploitation and protecting yourself from scams on June 11, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at PCA, 642 N. Broad St. The event is free and will include refreshments. To register, call 215-282-6499

Categories: Advocacy Elder Abuse Milestones eNews News about PCA


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