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Fighting Elder Abuse and Financial Exploitation

Monday, June 15, 2020 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.  On that day and every day, the Delaware Division of Services for Aging and Adults with Physical Disabilities and the Department of Justice partner in an effort to unite communities around Delaware to raise awareness about elder abuse.  This year, we are focusing on the special challenges related to financial exploitation. 

What is Elder Abuse

As Americans, we believe in justice for all, yet we fail to live up to this promise when we allow older members of our society to be abused, neglected, or financially exploited. Older adults and people with disabilities are vital, contributing members of our state and their maltreatment diminishes all of us. Just as we have confronted and addressed the social issues of child abuse and domestic violence, so too can we find solutions to address issues like the invisible epidemic of elder abuse, which also threatens the well-being of our community.

Types of Elder Abuse

Although massively under-reported, financial exploitation is increasingly becoming a rampant form of abuse among aging adults, particularly those with cognitive impairments such as Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia. These crimes are now so widespread that elderly financial abuse is often called “the crime of the twenty-first century.” According to the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA), one in nine seniors has reported being abused, neglected, or exploited within the last year, and one in twenty seniors has indicated some form of perceived financial mistreatment. In Delaware, almost half of all reported cases to Adult Protective Services are allegations of financial exploitation.

Adult Protective Service agencies, including Delaware, commonly receive reports about the following:

  • Theft: involves assets taken without knowledge, consent, or authorization; may include taking of cash, valuables, medications, or other personal property.
  • Exploitation: involves acts of dishonesty by persons entrusted to manage assets, including using the assets for unintended purposes or not in the best interest of the person who has entrusted their assets to someone else; may include falsification of records, forgeries, unauthorized and check-writing.
  • Real Estate: involves unauthorized sales, transfers, or changes to property title(s); may include unauthorized or invalid changes to estate documents.
  • Fraud: involves acts of dishonesty in the form of scams.  Common scams include government imposter scams (including the IRS scam), the grandparent scam, lottery or sweepstakes scams, heath care scams, social security scams, and tech support scams.  To learn more about these scams and others, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website: www.ftc.gov.  
  • Home Improvement Fraud: includes building contractors or handymen who receive payment(s) for building repairs, but fail to initiate or complete projects or grossly over charge for their services; may include invalid liens by contractors.
  • Electronic: includes “phishing” email messages to trick persons into unwittingly surrendering bank passwords; may include faxes, wire transfers, telephonic communications.
  • Mortgage: includes financial products which are unaffordable or out-of-compliance with regulatory requirements; may include loans issued against property by unauthorized parties.
  • Investment: includes investments made without knowledge or consent; may include high-fee funds (front or back-loaded) or excessive trading activity to generate commissions for financial advisors.
  • Insurance: involves sales of inappropriate products, such as a thirty-year annuity for a very elderly person; may include unauthorized trading of life insurance policies.

Get Involved

There are many ways to get involved in strengthening our communities and preventing this type of exploitation:

  • It is up to everyone to prevent and address abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Talk about it – with one another, to your leaders, and to your neighbors.  
  • Lend strength to existing social support structures by providing support to older adults and those with disabilities.
  • Contribute to building new social support structures by being aware of abuse, neglect, and exploitation and reporting it when you see it or suspect it.

If you see signs of abuse, neglect, or exploitation, please call Delaware’s APS at 1-800-223-9074 to report. Together, we can end elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

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