Imagine your 75 year-old mother – she’s depressed and increasingly isolated since her husband passed. Suddenly, she’s energetic, happy and starts talking about a new friend. She doesn’t give you many details about him, only that they connected through social media. Would you be concerned for her safety?
What if she starts giving him money? A little here, a little there. You try to talk to her about it, but she insists he’s a good person and they love each other. What can you do?
It is estimated that older adults lose more than $37 billion each year to scams, fraud and exploitation*. What’s more, is that the majority of these crimes are carried out by family (including adult children or spouse of the victim), friends, caretakers or other trusted individuals.
Exploitation is just one of the many types of abuse that older adults are experiencing. Elder abuse is any act that causes harm or threatens the risk of harm to an adult age 60 or older.
If you suspect or know an elder who is being taken advantage of financially, it is your responsibility to speak up.
Elder financial abuse or exploitation is defined in the Older Americans Act of 1965 as:
“The fraudulent or otherwise illegal, unauthorized, or improper act or process of an individual, including a caregiver or fiduciary, that uses the resources of an older individual for monetary or personal benefit, profit, or gain, or that results in depriving an older individual of rightful access to, or use of, benefits, resources, belongings, or assets.”
In other words, this type of abuse involves taking advantage of an older person for financial gain. This can look like a variety of tactics, such as identity theft, impersonators (a scammer claiming to be associated with a home repair company, law enforcement, sweepstakes or charity), email phishing or skimming credit/bank cards.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office breaks down common scams that affect older adults in our community: https://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/Individuals-and-Families/Seniors/Elder-Fraud/Common-Scams
But what systems are in place to help prevent these acts? In September 2018, the Ohio Revised Code, section 5101.63 was modified to add employees of the financial industry as mandated reporters. A mandated reporter is an individual who is required by law to report suspected abuse, neglect or exploitation of an adult, or is in a condition which is the result of abuse, neglect or exploitation. The following individuals are now mandated reporters in Ohio:
- An employee of a bank, savings bank, savings and loan association, or credit union organized under the laws of this state, another state, or the United States
- A dealer, investment adviser, sales person, or investment advisor representative licensed under Chapter 1707. of the Revised Code
- A financial planner accredited by a national accreditation agency
This is a huge and necessary step to help prevent our older adults from becoming victims of financial abuse. However, even though select professionals are mandated by law to report suspected or known abuse and neglect, anyone is able to call to make an anonymous report.
To report elder abuse, bystanders are encouraged to contact Adult Protective Services (APS) through the Department of Job and Family Services, or their designee. The Franklin County Office on Aging APS hotline is 614-525-4348. APS investigates cases of elder abuse, neglect or exploitation for adults age 60 or older that are residing in the community.
*National Council on Aging (https://www.ncoa.org/public-policy-action/elder-justice/elder-abuse-facts/)
- The Ohio Attorney General’s Office, Dave Yost
Answers questions and investigates consumer complaints; takes reports of fraud and scams (accepts reports online and via phone); information on website to assist victims of identity theft.
Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- Ohio Coalition for Adult Protective Services (OCAPS) OhioHOPES Helpline
OhioHOPES Helpline serves as Ohio’s information hub for older adults at risk for crime. This initiative provides resources and support in reporting crime against Ohio seniors.
- Pro Seniors, Inc.
This legal hotline for older Ohioans provides freelegal information to Ohio residents age 60 or older. Find legal forms via the website such as Power of Attorney, Living Wills and Last Will and Testament templates.
- Ohio Department of Health – Division of Quality Assurance, Complaint Unit
Investigates complaints involving home care agencies, hospitals, hospice agencies, nursing facilities and any other health-related services under federal and state jurisdiction. See this FAQ page to learn more about filing a complaint.
- State of Ohio Long-Term Care Ombudsman
Paid and volunteer staff advocate for elders receiving home care, assisted living and nurse home care. They work to resolve complaints, help callers select a provider and offer information about benefits and consumer rights. Ombudsmen do not regulate nursing home and home health agencies, but do work with providers, residents and their families to resolve concerns.