Keep a lookout for our special edition newsletter in collaboration with the Boulder County D.A. about elder abuse and how to avoid it. Here are some important key points about what to look for and what to do when dealing with elder abuse. If you do not receive our newsletter and would like to, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you find this information useful and informative, please join us for our October Forum that will be focused on community safety!
Signs of Exploitation
Signs to watch for are numerous; any of the following could be an indication that exploitation of an at-risk adult has taken place:
- Withdrawing access to or isolating an elder from others – changing the phone number, refusing to let anyone talk to the elder, not allowing the elder to contact anyone – “She’s napping, she’s sleeping, she’s busy…”
- Stops going to church or community groups, stops seeing friends or doctors
- Emotional manipulation – threats of putting elder in a nursing home or withdrawing companionship or comments such as, “No one loves you, I’m the only one who loves you, they’re all after your money but I’ll take care of you.” “If you don’t do what I say, I’ll put you in a nursing home to die.”
- Misses medical appointments or changes doctors frequently.
- Missing documents.
- Notices of insufficient funds, overdue bills.
- Caretaker or friend only asking financial questions.
- Caregiver may have been “given” expensive gifts, new cars or homes.
- Elder withdrawing or loaning large sums of money.
- Will or other financial documents have been changed.
- Power of Attorney changes.
- Possessions disappear.
- Mail disappears.
- Previously absent relative suddenly makes an appearance.
- Elder appears afraid to speak in presence of someone.
- Emotional manipulation reported, such as “If you deed your house to me, I’ll take care of you for the rest of your life.”
- Phone or other utilities cut off.
- Bank balances showing unusual amount of withdrawals or transfers without the elder’s knowledge or understanding.
- Notices for change of address for mail or accounts.
- Evidence that access has been obtained to Social Security checks, pension payments, checking or savings account, credit card or ATM by someone other than the elder.
- Withholding checks made out to an elder, or numerous checks made out to cash.
- Charging excessive fees for basic care.
- Reports from the elder that they have signed documents – mortgages, deeds, co-signing, POA, wills — about which they appear to be confused.
- Provides confused or improbable explanations about what has occurred.
How to help victims recognize exploitation
- Break control (guardianship or conservatorship if all else fails).
- Contact family members (if they are not the source of the problem).
- Reintroduce friends into the equation – create less isolation, which will also generate more feedback on the isolation.
- Get help from Adult Protective Services: 303-441-1000 for intake.
- Call law enforcement.
- Encourage community involvement – senior centers are a great resource.
Contacts from strangers – mail, phone, door
- Sweepstakes calls – lotteries, sweepstakes mimicking Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes (Do you want the balloons? What about the cardboard check?)
- Phony bill collectors – threatening collection actions.
- Calls from “police” urging them to pay collection notices or tickets.
- Unscrupulous home repair contractors – tree-trimming, roof fixing scams by traveling con artists.
- Inappropriate offers of financial products and services like annuities or reverse mortgages with astronomical fees.
- Loan fraud – victims have found their homes have been re-mortgaged or new home equity loans taken out, often by family members, without the elder’s knowledge.
- Pigeon drop at bank – customer in the parking lot claims to have found money, offers to split it with an elder if they first pay some amount as a sign of good faith.
- “Grandma/Grandpa?” scam – convincing an elder his or her child has been injured or is in jail and needs money
- Fake charities
- Sweetheart scams – Internet dating sites produce the love of their life who constantly needs money and/or asks for a fiancée visa to come to the U.S.
Plans to Protect Your Future
- Plan ahead to protect your assets and to insure your wishes are followed. Talk to someone at your financial institution, an attorney, or financial advisor about the best options for you.
- Make sure any financial power of attorney includes instructions for the use of the money.
- Never give personal information to anyone on the telephone or via e-mail without checking them out thoroughly.
- Cultivate lots of friends of all ages. The best defense against fraud or exploitation is a tight circle of friends.
- Be familiar with community resources – from aging resource specialists to money managers, transportation or food assistance.
- Never pay to collect sweepstakes or lottery “winnings.”
- Never rush into a financial decision. Ask for details in writing and get a second opinion.
- Consult with a financial advisor or attorney before signing any document you don’t understand.
- Consider a credit freeze to secure your credit information.
- Get to know your banker and build a relationship with the people who handle your finances. They can look for any suspicious activity related to your account.
- Check references and credentials before hiring anyone. Don’t allow workers to have access to information about your finances.
- Pay with checks and credit cards instead of cash to keep a paper trail.
- Feel comfortable saying no, don’t feel pressured or be intimidated into signing or doing something you don’t want to.
- Attend classes or seminars on frauds and scams to educate yourself – check with your local senior center.
You should never be threatened or intimidated. If you think someone close to you is trying to take control of you or your finances, or of another person, call law enforcement or call Adult Protective Services at 303-441-1000. If someone tells you they are afraid of someone or are being exploited, call law enforcement, and call 911 if it is an emergency. You can also make a confidential report to Adult Protective Services.
Safeguard Your Financial Life: Put These Best Practices to Work for You
By the Boulder District Attorney’s
Community Protection Division 303-441-3700
- Read and understand everything you sign. Obtain advice – legal or otherwise – before signing anything.
- Do not fall for Internet, mail or telemarketing “winnings.” Do not send money to get money.
- Do not respond to any e-mail that purports to be from an agency needing your information or indicating your information has been compromised (credit card company, e-Bay, bank, IRS, FBI, etc.). Call first: these are usually bogus e-mails “phishing” for information.
- Consider a credit freeze if you do not anticipate applying for credit now or in the near future. Visit our website or call for a copy of the information on freezing your credit files.
- Do not buy any item or service before checking out the reputation of the business, or verifying the condition of an item being purchased.
- Be sure you are on the no-call list for your home and cell phone: 1-888-382-1222 or www.donotcall.gov.
- Check your credit report via www.AnnualCreditReport.com. If you do not have access to the Internet, call 1-877-322-8228.
- Cross-shred all mail and any other information containing personal identification and account numbers. Do not put outgoing mail in your mailbox, don’t use the red flag, and pick up your mail immediately.
- Never give out personal information over the phone or the Internet unless you initiate the contact and are certain you are dealing with a secure site.
- Do not put trash out the night before and do not put any personal identifying information in the trash – including account numbers and insurance information.
- Do not give to any charity without making sure it is legitimate. Check the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance at www.give.org, the IRS web site at www.irs.gov or call our office.
- Monitor bills and credit card activity carefully each month. Report any discrepancies immediately to your financial institution. Safeguard all personal and medical information.
- Plan ahead to prevent financial exploitation.
How to Report Elder Abuse
If you suspect elder abuse in any form – whether it is physical, sexual or financial abuse – there are two principal organizations to call. If it appears to be an emergency – call 911 or contact your local police department. If you are unsure, or suspect elder abuse, you can report your concerns anonymously to Boulder County Adult Protective Services at 303-441-3700. If APS is concerned about a situation, they will often take an officer with them to investigate a situation involving potential elder abuse. The District Attorney’s Office works closely with law enforcement and Adult Protective Services in responding to elder abuse.
Adult Protective Services 303-441-1000
Boulder County Sheriff: 303-441-4444
Boulder Police Department: 303-441-3333
Longmont Police Department: 303-651-8555
Louisville Police Department: 303-441-4444
Lafayette Police Department: 303-665-6311
Erie Police Department: 303-926-2810
Nederland Police Department: 303-258-3250
Boulder District Attorney: 303-441-3700