OVC Provider Forum Transcript

Serving Older Victims of Financial Abuse
Betty Malks, Angela DeLeon  -  2010/7/21
(1) Have you encountered any seniors who have been victims of abuse related to reverse mortgage or home improvement loans? If so, how were they addressed? (2) Have you encountered financial abuse related to Power of Attorney? How should one in a direct service provider role handle an agressive person with Power of Attorney when the Senior trusts them?
1.  Betty Malks
 I have. Reverse mortgages are on the rise. In the US there are 100,000 per year, and that is now 2 of the population. That figure has risen from 1. There is a lack of information and education, and the information that exists is very confusing. There are several persons posing as experts in this area who prey on seniors. They speak at senior centers,offer free lunch and dinner seminars, call elders, or email them.They induce fear, anger, and greed in seniors who then are persuaded that the only way they can have any future resources is to get a reverse mortgage.The same happens with home improvement loans in the form of transient criminal activity or calls or ads in the newspapers.The way to address all of these scams is if you suspect abuse, call APS andlaw enforcement. If your APS is part of a Financial Abuse Specialist Team (FAST), they will immediately begin an investigation into these allegations.The focus is helping the victim by preventing or recovering the assets and if appropriate, prosecuting the perpetrator. Often the perpetrators are family members. In fact, 90 of perpetrators are or people close to the victim. As for abuse related to Power of Attorney, this is one of the fastest growing financial crimes of the elderly. Again, people don't understand the ramifications of POA and the problem is that it is very easy to become a durable POA.it is quoted that POA's give a person a license to steal from seniors. One needs to be very cautious and plan well in advance before such a step is taken.
2.  BP
 It is my understanding that people should only have power of attorney if the person they work with does not have the capacity to make good decisions for themselves. If the person holding POA is misusing the POA, report it to Adult Protective Services and Law Enforcement. This is not uncommon. If Medicaid or Social Security are involved, misuse of funds can also be reported to them. It can be helpful to remind the person holding the POA that they are required to act in the person's best interest, and that they are legally culpable if they do not.
3.  Kerry M.
 1. I work in a prosecution office, so the process was arrest and prosecution for the situation.2. If the senior does not see a problem with the person chosen to serve as Power of Attorney, there is little you can do...I have resorted to education of the senior's rights.
4.  Angela DeLeon
 I personally have not but I believe that awareness is key.. if this is a concern speak to a reputable, local bank and ask them to do a senior program in concert with the local law enforcers on the safest way to deal with reverse mortgage or home improvement loans. The program should be held at a place where seniors gather: a senior center, retirement meeting, church group or AARP meeting.
How can I reach out to the elderly in my neighborhood to warn them about potential threats?
1.  James
 I agree with all the suggestions made in this discussion, however I would add that you should try to get the elderly person's family and or friends MORE involved in their lives. They should not only spend more time with them but they should try to educate them on how safisticated the criminals have become with the added use of technology. Additionally, I would recommend that the family member sit down on a regular bases and check financial accounts and estate documents for possible tampering. This may avoid huge family loses when the elderly finally passes on....
2.  Benjamin Bravo
 I agree that police departments should have update statistics crimes that are happening in the local area. In my community you can find crimes that have been committed in the local area on a website it advises the community of the severity of the crime as well.
3.  cmt
 how do I obtain information for the Spainsh Speaking seniors?
4.  Jenny Hicks
 I am the Elder Abuse educator in our county and I do presentations to both professionals and seniors directly at places like senior centers. There may be someone like that in your county - would likely work out of the Dept of Aging, Social Services or the local DV provider
5.  Betty Malks
 There are several ways to reach out to elders. A major component of outreach is education. Set up an educational event for the entire community with refreshments. Make sure there are speakers with credibility and experience who can share resources and actual referral sources. Also make sure to leave time for questions. It is also important to market this event early and offer transportation if possible.
6.  Christy
 In our community near our office we have a church that has lunch on Tuesday @ 12. They have lunch and a speaker, you might could look for opportunities like that where you could speak to a group near your neighborhood.
7.  Angela DeLeon
 Go to your local police/sheriffs depts. and ask if they have any information on the potential threat that you can use, statistics, types of crimes, etc. Possibly the law enforcers can come to speak to the senior with you.
8.  Elizabeth Burns
 I have had very good success in getting these types of messages out by working with local police officers. I try to look for Elder Service Officers and I am lucky that every district in Chicago and many suburbs have such an officer. They have many outreach activities for seniors in their service area and are always happy to find good speakers.
Many of the older victims I work with are resistent to change. How do you overcome this issue?
1.  Betty Malks
 Many people of all ages are resistant to change, not just the elderly. It is important to work with victims and build a trusting relationship from the outset. Start with establishing rapport. Ask them about themselves and what issues with which you can help. No one wants to reveal personal issues at the onset, especially if they've experienced recent victimization. They feel extremely vulnerable. The key is to listen, be supportive, empathetic and have several resources to give them.
2.  Angela DeLeon
 Seniors may seem resistent to change but actually have no choice but to change. Normal life as you age brings changes daily. Depending on the type of change - discuss the bright side rather than the down side and keep reinforcing the good of the issue. Changes may be related to moving to senior housing... stress the safety and companionship at senior housing, etc. Possibly, it is giving up the car keys, stress the financial gain and safety of not driving a car. Allow them to look on the bright side
what is the most common form of financial abuse against older individuals?
1.  Angela DeLeon
 In my opinion it is family or someone the senior considers family taking money or assets from the senior that they do not deserve. In this financial climate, the senior may have a steady income of social security or pension and the family member who is down on their luck may justify why they should have it instead of the senior.
Who are most often the perpetrators in instances of financial abuse of older individuals? If a family member is involved, what are the challenges to identifying the victims and then providing services?
1.  Latifa Ring
 The Metlife Study showed that the largest group of perpetrators in Dollar amount was business and professionals. Males aged 30 to 50?
2.  Angela DeLeon
 The perpetrators are most commonly adult children. Again, I would speak to Adult Protective Services and let them handle the situation.
What are Sweetheart Scams?
1.  Angela DeLeon
 Sweetheart scams are sad because lonliness is a problem with seniors and people are always looking for companionship. Scam artists will meet elderly, lonely people and seem to enjoy them romantically to get their money. It is very common and seniors should be made aware of this type of scam. It is heartbreaking andbank account breaking!!!!!
I work with seniors who are victims of financial exploitation and have never seen a case where Social Security actually investigated and prosecuted a case of fraudulent use of a beneficiary's income by a representative payee. Is there a way to increase the chances of this happening?
1.  K. McElwee
 If the report is not being given to police that should be done at the same time so criminal prosecution may be done.
What would be the best way to approach a person who is financially abusing a senior?
1.  Angela DeLeon
 I would talk to Adult Protective Services and let them handle it. When people are financially exploiting someone they tend justify and rationalize their reasons. You cannot approach them if you are not a professional in this field. Many families consider financial abuse - Early Inheritence.. and they justify it in their conscience..
Do all states have programs set up to help elderly that face financial abuse?
1.  angela DeLeon
 I believe all states have Area Agencies on Aging or a Dept. of Aging in their state. I would contact them and ask if that state has a program.
2.  Monica Nesmith
 Many counties around the country have their own Adult Protective Services. Service Providers should locate their nearest office and become familiar their contact information. Some local District Attorney Offices have an Elder Abuse Section and a Victim Services Section that may offer many resources and information for elderly victims of financial abuse and other direct services providers.
What tools do financial institutions need to help them combat senior financial abuse? How can a local coalition such as ours best assist banks and credit unions in our area? Who should we contact?
1.  Betty Malks
 One of the most important tools for financial institutions to help combat senior financial abuse is the local coalition you mentioned. A multidisciplinary coalition representing APS, law enforcement, financial institutions, the district attorney's office,civil attorneys, real estate brokers, accountants, and financial managers would comprise a beginning for a coalition. The most important components are persons who are involved in this area who can create a synergistic environment to resolve cases and help victims. One model has APS social workers present cases at the coaltion meeting and everyone responds with resources and ideas in a problem solving mode. It is vital for professionals to be cross trained and be willing to meet on a regular basis for effective problem resolution. There are several F.A.S.T. teams in California, even one that is a Rapid Response one that model effective coaklitons in this area.
2.  Angela DeLeon
 If you have a local Triad, contact them. If not,start one!!! Involving the local banks, law enforcement and senior organizations. Address identity theft, purse safety, home safety, financial exploitation of the elderly. There are many topics to discuss. My answer is Create a Triad in your area...
Do you think that elder abuse has increase over the course of the past twenty years. Do you think elder abuse has changed becuase of our lack of respect as a generation for elderly people.
1.  Angela DeLeon
 I have been working in this field for over 20 years and definitely think financial exploitation of the elderly has increased. I think the breakdown of the family has contributed to this problem. Years ago more families lived within close proximity to the elders and established more rapport and respect for them. With present day finances, the elderly are the age group of choice of most scam artists and familyscam artists!!! 75% of financial exploitation of the elderly is done by family or someone the elder considers a part of their family. I think seniors should prepare financially for their old age and have a plan in place using a reputable financial institution or legal group. Then, they will have a good partner to help them with financial decisions and possibly not be victims of financial scams and fraud.
I'm an elder abuse victim advocate in a rural area. The elder population here are very self-reliant and hesitant to let everyone know their business. How do I overcome this barrier to helping victims find resources?
1.  James
 I would try to create small educational group sessions, and talk with them about the abuses that exist using a lot of examples that may apply to them. This may create a comfortable environment that will eventually allow them to share their experiences with you.
2.  K. McElwee
 I have been able to make use of the State Division of Aging resources guide that has been made available to the public for free. They also work with the local senior centers to try and get this guide widely distributed.
Banks are hesitant to report financial exploitation. Have you experienced this and what suggestions do you have to increase their willingness to report?
1.  Angela DeLeon
 Many banks are resistent because they are uncomfortable with violating the Privacy Act. I think all banks should be mandated to have courses for their front-line employees on How to Spot financial exploitation of the elderly. Then, they should have a procedure in place for reporting with one person who funnels the report. They then should make a determination if it is a crime in progress or if it is possible financial exploitation that should be investigated by Adult Protective Services. There are about 5 states that bankers are mandated reporters of financial exploitation and must report it. Although many cases are iffy and they definitely should be reported anonymously to adult protective services to investigate. If it is a definite crime and the seniors could be a victim of some form of abuse; this should be reported to a local law enforcement dept. Banks should also know that if they detect abuse and do nothing about it; they could get into more trouble if they knew and did nothing!!! and the senior lost everything.. I can't imagine a judge ruling against a bank who reports in good faith financial exploitation of an older person. I would certainly advise banks to protect their elderly customers!!
2.  Tanya
 Bank personnel may be hesitant to report, but they are mandated reporters in most states. Education is the key to getting them to understand more about financial exploitation.
3.  Betty Malks
 I have experienced this often. One way was to create an effective Financial Institutions Team, F.I.T., with representatives from banks, credit unions, APS, County Counsel, and the State Attorney for the Credit Union. One of the credit unions had a long experience working with APS and thus began by presenting their effective model of collaboration and communication. They also had an excellent track record in resolving cases together. An issue that came up early in the team's meetings was the issue of confidentialityprivacy both from the financial institution and APS. The credit union attorney and the county counsel worked together to resolve this important concern for many members. They were able to work through this and presented their resolution to the team. These beginning successes helped launch a very cohesive, productive relationship. We created protocols and practices manuals, trained all financial personnel, held a Senior Forum on financial abuse. Our financial institutions were comfortable reporting to APS because of their ongoing relationship even before our state mandated them to report.
Can you share any helpful hints on how you started your FAST team? Looking for a place to start and already existing resources.
1.  Betty Malks
 Of course, I could talk about this subject and our process for several hours. The way we started was that I observed other teams in California who were consultative teams. After this process, I decided we needed a Rapid Response team but built on many of the tenets of the other F.A.S.T. teams observed. I spoke with APS and the Public Guardian's office who were part of the same county Department on Aging and Adult Services in which I was the new director. Then I observed that the Public Guardian's office had worked very closely with the County Counsel's office for many years and asked their director if they would join a FAST team. My next step was approaching the District Attorney. I had not worked with him but knew that his office had not been prosecuting elder abuse cases. Prior to our meeting, the staff researched this issue and created a volume of documentation which I brought to this meeting. The DA immediately realized the problem after viewing the documentation. He then agreed to be part of the FAST team and asked my opinion in selecting which Deputy DA to appoint to the team. Their decision to be part of the team brought the teeth that we needed to prosecute.
are there materials (pamphlets, flyers etc) avaialble to the elderly? If so how do I get them? Does the victim need a police report in order to contact OVC?
1.  Angela DeLeon
 OVCttac does have materials on Financial Exploitation and courses for professionals. Contact OVC and discuss the possiblities of these trainings in your area. NO, you do not need a police report to contact OVC
Victim cooperation: when an elderly person has experienced identity theft, fraud, and/or actual theft of assets, and the victim expresses reluctance to provide information and assist in the investigation, what methods can be employed to gain their cooperation?
1.  PS
 I think building rapport and trust is critical when working with any victim of crime, elderly or otherwise, and can serve you well when it comes to cooperation. Educating victims about their rights and keeping them apprised of their case can also foster cooperation.......regardless of the amount of time that's passed since the victimization. Listening is also key. What are the real reasons they aren't being cooperative - fear of reprisal, fear of loneliness, pride, looking foolish, loss of independence, etc. Understanding the underlying issues could help inform your work with the victim and help you build rapport more quickly.In my work with the elderly population in Washington State this served me well - understanding, empathy, and education helped me gain access to them in their homes where I could more easily build rapport and trust - but also see if what they reported to me about their home environment, for example, was accurate. Nine times out of 10 they underreported or minimized whatever situation I was there to address and there were reasons for that. Patience is another key element of working with this population take time to know and understand your victim, their life, etc. and you will be surprised at the cooperation you receive. Relationships, relationships, relationships! Build them, nurture them and watch your job get monumentally easier.
2.  Angela DeLeon
 We have just had 2 cases of seniors who were victimized and did not want to be paid back by the person who victimized them... Many times, the price is worth the companionship!!! Sad but lonliness raises havoc with seniors and unscrupulous people know that so they befriend them and steal their money or assets, etc. This is so similar to the Stockholm Syndrome.. and so sad. Get someone or an agency ie: Atty. General's Office to be the intermediary and get the money or assets back to the senior. We have had seniors say If he/she writes me a check, I will not cash it.. Therefore you need someone to get into the middle and put the money back where it belongs.
Elder Financial Abuse can be a very big problem in American Indian Communities where they receive "per cap" payments. With some tribes the checks are monthly and other yearly or bi-yearly. Does OVC have any experience working with this?
What services are available for elder victims of financial abuse?
1.  angela DeLeon
 Call your local Area Agency on Aging. They can recommend services for the person. Also, socialization is key at this time; allowing the senior to be isolated and to be able to stew about the victimization could be deadly. They can sink into depression and get sick physically. Many times if they have been scammed on the computer or in a phone scam; they will have been put on a sucker list. Making them aware that the scam artists may try to contact them through another source is very important. Again, Awareness is Key..
What is a Triad?
1.  angela DeLeon
 TRIAD is three groups coming together to prevent victimization of the elderly and to create programs which allow seniors to age in place with Dignity and Safety. The three groups consist of Law Enforcers, Seniors and another group. In Connecticut, the other group is private business. Peoples United Bank is the 3rd leg of Triad in Connecticut and represents private business. All other businesses are invited to join Triad. TRIAD is a national organization: www. NATI.org. The National Sheriff's Organization is a key sponsor of Triad Nationally.
2.  K. McElwee
 The national website can best answer this for you...http://www.nationaltriad.org
3.  Merry O'Brien
 Cops, Seniors, and Community members working together (all three) to combat elder abuse. TRIAD officers have applied to be assigned to this program.
How do I convince the elderly to report a crime such as financial abuse? Where do I as a Probation Officer/Victim advocate, start?
1.  PS
 I think as a Probation Officer you are a mandated reporter. As such you have an obligation to report abuse or suspected abuse of vulnerable populations which the elderly fall into. All you need to do is let the person know you are a mandated reporter and then make the report yourself. Failing to do so in my state means a fine and jail time.
2.  Angela DeLeon
 There is a lot of information on-line. It depends on how the person is being financially exploited. I have used the FBI site to show a victim that they have not won the lottery.. and it is a scam. Get as much information from law enforcement and explain to them that this type of scam happens and they have become a victim.Make sure you do not make them feel foolish because the last thing you want them to do is get sick over it or lose their self esteem.
Do you know of any specific resources that will assist elderly victims in getting back on track after becoming a victim of financial fraud? Since financial fraud is not a violent crime, their counseling expenses will not be paid by our Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund. Also, financial counseling seems more aimed towards younger people; any resource aimed specifically towards the elderly financial victim?
1.  PS
 Since resources are going to be different in virtually every state, the best place to start would be your local Area Agency on Aging. From there I would also recommend checking your local community action program as they may have programs or services to address this need. You might also contact your local APS office for resource information since one of their primary functions, besides investigation, is to provide referrals. Finally, the National Council on Aging offers free financial counseling for older adults. You can find more information about them here: http://www.ncoa.org
2.  Deborah G.
 AARP has a volunteer-based program called Money Management. It is only operating in about 20 states but what it does is match adult volunteers from the community with seniors who are unable to keep their finances in order. This help can make a huge difference in both bringing order to financial matters and protecting the senior from harm (or further harm). Check it out at aarpmmp.com. If your state does not have this program, I recommend trying to bring it to your locality.
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