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Tips to Prevent Crimes Against the Elderly

It’s something of a myth that crimes against senior citizens involve a young man yanking a little old lady’s purse off her arm as she walks to the grocery store. Crimes perpetrated against senior citizens are far more complicated and can often go undetected.

“Certainly what we’re seeing now is that criminals are getting more sophisticated in how they go after the elderly,” said Michelle Boykins, Director of Communications and Marketing at the National Crime Prevention Council. “Elder abuse is a crime that’s been growing over the past several years.”

There are numerous reasons that elder abuse – which is a term that includes anything from physical harm to financial fraud against elderly people – is growing. One reason, says Boykins, is the longer life expectancy people now have and therefore a larger population of people in their senior years.

“The scope of the problem is quite large,” said Georgia Aneztberger, president of the National Committee for Prevention of Elder Abuse. “It was originally thought that every year one out of 20 older people experienced some form of elder abuse. Now it appears to be one out of every 10 older people experience this kind of problem.”

The primary type of elder abuse is financial crimes, with an estimated $2.9 billion taken from the elderly in the United States in 2011, according to Anetzberger.

Whether the crime is financial or physical, the reality is that it can sometimes be perpetrated by people close to the victim.

“Most caregivers – whether family, friends, or individuals who work in the field of aging – most of them do the best job they can and are not abusive or neglectful in any way,” Anetzberger said. “It’s the unusual circumstance when the alternative, a crime, occurs.”

Elderly Crime Prevention Advice

The elderly may be more susceptible to abuse or financial exploitation if they’re on their own after a spouse dies, and they can’t maintain a home as they did before. They also might have people close to them involved in drugs, and they’re often alone. Whatever the reason for the vulnerability, Anetzberger has tips on how to prevent crimes against the elderly:

1. Have a large social network. According to Anetzberger, “If you have this kind of network, others who can observe what’s going on, if something goes wrong, there are others you can turn to for assistance.”

2. Exercise some skepticism. “Somebody might ordinarily be a great neighbor but their situation changes, and they see opportunities and it’s inappropriate,” says Anetzberger.

3. Plan ahead. “Think out who might be the people you turn to for legal assistance,” Anetzberger said. One place to start for this is the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.

4. Make a call. “Across this country, there is an adult protective services system in every state,” she said. Either a caregiver or a person who is being cared for can contact their local adult protective services with their concerns about the possibility of elder abuse. Anetzberger says if it’s clear a crime has been committed, then the police should be notified.

Common Financial Crimes Against the Elderly

The most common crimes against seniors are frauds and scams that can reach them in person – over the phone, through the mail, and possibly through online sources.

“Typically, most crimes against the elderly are frauds, scams, things that are designed to bilk them out of their financial means,” Boykins said. “The elderly are vulnerable from a financial standpoint because they have their retirement built up and it makes them susceptible to telemarketing schemes.”

These scams tempt seniors because they’re on a fixed income and might be concerned about day-to-day living expenses. They see the scheme as a solution to their worries, she added.

“One of the very first things that we say about scams is: If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is,” Boykins said.

Her prevention tips for people tempted by these scams are to ask for all the information in writing, refuse to sign anything when the sales pitch is made, and check out the company with the Better Business Bureau.

Contact Homewatch CareGivers for Elder Care Assistance

If you’re concerned about an elderly loved one’s well-being and decision-making, your local Homewatch CareGivers can help. Simply having regular company can help seniors recognize scams when they’re presented and avoid financial disaster.

Our elder care professionals are skilled at providing compassionate care and companionship. Count on us to meet your loved one’s needs while you’re away, including meal preparation, transportation to appointments, medication reminders, and much more.

Professional care is a phone call away. Call (888) 404-5191 to talk to a customer service agent or click the button below to schedule your complimentary consultation online.

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