Be alert for senior scammers, financial abuse

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Be alert for senior scammers, financial abuse

You are not here merely to make a living.  You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement.  You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.— Woodrow Wilson

An e-mail message from a Senior Moments reader recounted a sad, but all too familiar, story.

Mom, age 82, has lived in Bowie most of her life.  Her daughter and husband live in Silver Spring.  One day, the daughter was balancing mom’s checkbook and looking over her bank statement when she noticed a number of checks for large amounts.  These checks were made out to individuals at the rate of one or two each day.

Mom and daughter went to the bank to get help and inquire about the checking account.  After a review, it was determined that the checks were written mostly to two individuals, who will go un-named here.  Mom was questioned as to who these individuals were, and she said that one of them had been coming to her house selling meat and seafood.  After the man received a few orders, he told mom that she would have to pay in advance for her food deliveries and that she would receive a new freezer to hold all the new food.  Later, he advised her to just sign the checks and he would fill them out to the company in order to make the check “correct.”  This person had been coming to mom’s house two to three times a week getting two checks each time.

To make a long story short, a total of more than $66,000 had been stolen from Mom.  In the end, the States Attorney determined that there was not enough evidence to substantiate criminal charges against the two individuals.

There are enough adult financial abuse anecdotes to fill up several columns.  Crooks and scammers are becoming more and more sophisticated in relieving older folks of their hard-won assets.  These cases are very difficult to prosecute. Too many times it is a child who actually uses mom or dad’s assets for themselves.  In the end, mom or dad will not testify against those children.  The problem is full of so many challenges, mazes and fake explanations that it is almost impossible to get to the bottom of the story and bring perpetrators to justice.

Each year in the United States, says the National Center on Elder Abuse, 1 to 2 million reports of elderly and vulnerable adult abuse are made.  The real number of victims is likely even higher, because most financial abuse cases are not reported.  In fact, it is believed that only 1 in 14 cases of elderly and vulnerable adult abuse is reported.

Many of my clients do not want to report such abuse because they don’t think of themselves as “stupid enough to fall for that” as one lady told me.  She was so embarrassed for her family to know she had been fooled by a scammer.  She wanted them to continue to think that she was sophisticated, sharp and capable of taking care of herself.

At the airport, there are lots of signs that say “If you see something, say something.”  If you should notice abuse of the elderly, read below for ways to report it.

The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH), Office of Health Care Quality, Adult Protective Services program (APS), investigates allegations of adult abuse, physical or financial, neglect, self-neglect or exploitation of an elderly or disabled vulnerable adult in a community-based setting.  During fiscal year 2011, APS received 6,579 reports of abuse.  Of these cases, 1,883 involved continuing APS case management services to monitor on-going risk factors.

If you know someone in your neighborhood, church, or any of your other contacts that you feel is being abused or neglected in some important way, you can call APS anonymously.  (301-909-2228.) you do not have to give your name.  The Department will investigate the situation.  For more information about adult abuse, neglect or exploitation contact the Maryland Department of Human Resources at 410-767-7000, toll free 800-917-7383, or on the web at

Adult Protective Services is a program that serves persons aged 18 or over who lack the physical or mental capacity to provide for their own daily needs.  The program provides professional services to protect the health, safety and welfare of endangered vulnerable adults.

Persons who report the need for Adult Protective Services are protected under the law.  Section 14-309 of the Family Law Article, Annotated Code of Maryland, states “any person who in good faith makes or participates in making a report under this subtitle or participates in an investigation or a judicial proceeding resulting from such a report under this subtitle is immune from any civil liability that would otherwise result.”

All suspected cases of Adult Abuse and Neglect should be reported to your local Department of Social Services.  In Prince George’s County, the number is 301-909-2228. 

Thank you for reading.  Stay well.  See you next week

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