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Elder Abuse Victims: They Need A Voice

by Danielle Kane | Feb 27, 2019 9:17:28 AM

Elder abuse fraud is an ongoing
and wide-spread crime costing elder Americans billions every year.  It’s an alarming figure encompassing many
different scams targeting older generations; it’s even more heart-wrenching when
the fraudsters are family members.

This was the main topic at the
first quarter Oregon Consumer Protection Meeting held February 13th at the
Oregon Department of Justice.  Various
consumer-facing groups were present including state and local representatives from
the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Internal Revenue Service (IRS),
Department of Financial Regulation (DFR) and AARP.  My colleague, Dene Joubert, lead investigation
consultant, and I were there representing Better Business Bureau Northwest +
Pacific.

The Oregon FBI representative noted
what an important issue elder abuse and fraud are for the organization, and how
often it is those closest to the victim who take advantage of them.

This could be attributed to the
onset of ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ or similar traumatic bonding, according to financial
crime experts
and psychologists. The syndrome, which is broadly
defined as feelings of trust or affection felt by kidnapped or hostage victims
toward their captor, can be applied in situations of elder abuse and fraud.  Older victims trust an abusing caretaker to
the point where, even when confronted by other family members about signs of
potential abuse, the victim ignores it.  Abusers
can be family members and, often-times, care-takers that family members have
hired.

A local representative for the
Oregon Construction Contractors Board (CBB) added that elder abuse scams, mixed
with contractor scams, are on the rise. “In these situations, we’ve seen
abusive caretakers bring in husbands, boyfriends or friends who are contractors
to start remodeling the victim’s home,” the CBB rep noted. In these scenarios,
the care-taker will try to keep the victim secluded from neighbors so they
cannot ask what’s going on with the construction. They will also seclude them
from family members when they call, to prevent the elderly victim from sharing
details about the remodeling work. The end game?  To milk as much money from the unknowing
victim as they can under the guise of necessary construction work.

AARP’s local representative added
that a victim group for older consumers who have been targeted by fraudsters does
exist, but it doesn’t address preventative measures.

The Consumer Protection group
agreed preventative measures should be considered for future implementation,
including expanding the outreach efforts of victim groups to connect with potential,
or current, fraud victims.  Another possible
idea was to develop marketing campaigns targeting children of elderly parents so
they might learn what to watch for when hiring caretakes.  However, such a campaign could be tricky
because, as I learned at the meeting, it’s extremely common for the children to
also be the fraudsters.

Remember, if you know someone who
may be a victim of any kind of elder abuse fraud, including more common scams
such as tax-collection or lottery-winning phone calls, be sure to report it to
the correct agencies and at https://www.bbb.org/scamtracker/us/

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