Professionals Have Perfected Targeting Seniors
June 13, 2013
Elder abuse, financial abuse, in particular is a major problem in our society. According to the 2010 Investor Protection Trust Elder Fraud Survey, over seven million older Americans (one in five) have been victimized by a financial swindle1. Victims of abuse in later life are three times more likely to die prematurely than non-abused age elders2. The cost of financial exploitation of seniors is astronomical; a 2011 study estimated that older victims lose $2.9 billion annually3. As the population increases rates of financial abuse and exploitation and its cost on society are also anticipated to increase.
Unfortunately, seniors are often the target of scammers and unscrupulous business practices. At the Pacific McGeorge Elder and Health Law Clinic, law students advocate for senior consumers who have been victims of financial elder abuse. We see a wide range of financial exploitation from scams such as the Jamaican Lottery where there is no product or service being provided to shady business practices where seniors are pressured into buying unnecessary or unsuitable products. Clinical students have successfully negotiated refunds for consumers who have purchased unnecessary hearing aids and home improvement services.
A recent case in the Elder and Health Law Clinic shows that these scammers are professionals who have perfected their trade targeting seniors. Mrs. H, a 90-year-old widow, lives independently in her home. Her husband managed their finances before his death but she has since learned to carefully manage her limited income from Social Security. One afternoon, Mrs. H noticed handsome young man pull up outside her mobile home in an expensive car and wondered who could be visiting her on a weekday morning. The man knocked on her door, which she opened for him. Pretty soon the man had invited himself into her house and after three hours of his presence, she found herself signing a contract and writing a check for the deposit for a $14,000 bathtub she neither wanted nor could afford. Mrs. H commented on how nice and charming the man was when he first arrived but that after three hours she would do anything to get him out of her house. She was too embarrassed to call her children to tell them what had happened out of fear they would think she could no longer manager her money. She became physically ill from stress and confided in a volunteer who visit her home. The volunteer connected Mrs. H with the Pacific McGeorge Elder and Health Law Clinic for legal assistance.
Financial exploitation of seniors is a crime! Report financial abuse to your local police. You can also contact Sacramento Adult Protective Services at 916.874.9377 if you suspect abuse. The McGeorge Elder and Health Law Clinic is able to assist low income Sacramento County seniors who have been victims of financial abuse. Please call 916.340.6080 for an intake. McGeorge Elder and Health Law Clinic law students are also available for presentations on Financial Safety and Scams affecting Seniors.
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Melissa Brown, Supervising Attorney, Pacific McGeorge Elder Law and Health Clinic
Email | 916.739.77378
1 Investor Protection Trust. Elder Investment Fraud and Financial Exploitation. 2010; 3.
2 Lachs, M., Williams, C., O'Brien, S., Pillemer, K., Charlson, M., The Mortality of Elder Mistreatment. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 1998.
3 Karp, N., Wilson, R. Protecting the Older Investor. AARP Public Policy Institute 2011; 1.