With the exploitation of seniors adding up to millions in losses for families, businesses and government, the state of Maryland is taking steps to raise awareness of elder financial abuse.
One in five adults age 65 and older have become victims of elder financial abuse in Maryland, as reported in an article in The Baltimore Sun, “Stopping elder fraud in Maryland,” with losses averaging $12,000 per person. Maryland is taking action.
Financial exploitation of the elderly 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 impact of financial fraud on the elderly is staggering: about $2.9 billion each year is attributed to these crimes.
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.
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.
The larger message: if you suspect that an elderly person, friend, loved one or neighbor is being exploited, contact a long-term care ombudsman or law enforcement agency, so that the situation can be investigated. You can also contact the local Department of Aging or the Attorney General’s office.
Reference: Baltimore Sun (January 7, 2018) “Stopping elder fraud in Maryland”