Nov 23

Hear Phase

Qualitative Research
During the last month, the research and personal anecdotes I’ve read indicate that older adults may not feel comfortable asking their adult children for financial advice, fearing they may be seen as not fully competent to handle their own affairs.  Because many elders are scammed either over the phone, or through investment fraud, prevention could start by offering a free, publicly-funded hotline that would be manned by volunteer financial experts who could either offer advice, or provide financial advocacy.

To better understand this crime from various perspectives, I will be collecting data from surveys and in-person interviews with older adults, their families, and social caregivers.  Also, over the next month, I will solicit help from two older adults, asking them to use self-documentation as a way to give me a clearer picture of what their financial decision-making challenges are during an average week.  During this time, I will also employ full immersion into my parents’ home to observe their daily financial challenges.

The survey participation is going well.  Please participate if you haven’t.

Thank you.

 

Nov 22

Using Human Centered Design

HCD Approach
After researching this epic crime, there doesn’t seem to be a simple solution. As an adult child, I only have my perspective on elder fraud and how older adults and their families may be affected. In order to better understand the “hows and whys” elder fraud is so rampant in recent years, I want to apply a Human-Centered Design (HCD) approach. Through an HDC approach, my goal is create a solution based on people’s needs.

Take the Survey
In addition to statistical data, another way I want to gather information is through surveys.  To participate, please click on the group you identify with below:

In these surveys, questions will be used to collect data that will be used to shape ideas into one or more possible solutions to dampen financial crimes committed against the elderly. The results from these surveys will be published every day on this site.  On Dec. 15th, I will also post a first iteration for a proposed product or service towards thwarting these crimes; feedback from you all will be encouraged.

Thank you for your participation in the surveys, as well as your interest in this problem – a problem that affects all of us!

Oct 19

The Best Defense is Prevention

Because current laws concerning elder fraud are either hard to enforce or have not caught up with the sophisticated crimes of today, the best defense against this kind of abuse is prevention.  The best way to ensure that the older population is not embroiled in a devastating financial scheme, is to have a checks and balance. This could involve allowing a family member, friend, or other trusted person to periodically monitor her personal finances. This seems like a simple concept, but in reality, can be very complicated.

The biggest obstacle to overcome is a feeling of lost independence.  Older adults want to be able to maintain their autonomy, and understandably so.  If she allows a trusted person access to her financial statements, she may not only feel like she is no longer capable to be trusted to handle her finances, but also that she may lose privacy.  I know my mother would not be comfortable if she knew I could see how she spent her money, which can be very personal at times.  I went online to see if I could find a solution that would make monitoring of finances easier for all parties involved, in the name of prevention.  I posed the question to Bob Mauterstock on a site called Parent Care Planning.  This was his response:

Your mother may have some concerns about controlling her finances but it still makes sense for someone to act as her backup. She should definitely identify someone ( child, advisor or close friend) to have the durable power of attorney. This person will act in her behalf if she is sick or unable to manage her finances in the future. That person should offer to periodically check her bank statements to see if the bank has made any mistakes. Over time she will gain confidence in that person to assist her. You should make sure you have named a person to have the durable power of attorney for yourself and tell your mother what you have done and why. Perhaps that might influence her.

This is great advice.  Setting an example can be a good way to convince the older adults in our lives that having a durable power or attorney is an unfortunate necessity in today’s sophisticated world.

-r2

 

Oct 12

Steps for Reporting Elder Fraud

How To Report Elder Fraud

Step 1
Gather any evidence you possess of fraud that has been committed. You should refer to this evidence in your online or telephone report. After your initial report is filed, you may be asked to provide evidence.  Below is a checklist that be used to prepare a fraud report.  While fraud creates emotional consequences, it can cloud the facts in a case, making it harder to investigate. Objective reports may even be seen as more trustworthy than those that include a lot of opinion.  Do your best to remember important details such as:

  • Date of the incident.
  • Name of the criminal and the organization he claimed to represent.
  • If contact was made in person, provide a physical description.
  • Details of each transaction or contact with the criminal.
  • Number of times the criminal contacted or attempted to contact you.
  • Methods of contact (such as in person, phone, mail or Internet).

Step 2
Establish the type of fraud that was committed. Different state and government agencies investigate and police fraud. Common types of fraud include Internet, tax, financial, identity theft, stolen checks, fake businesses and Medicare.
To research the different types of possible fraud, visit consumerfraudreporting.org. Although this site caters mainly to fraud in the United States and Canada, there are links that help you to report fraud in other countries.

Step 3
Report the Crime to the Proper Authority

 

 

Sep 30

“Low-Risk = High Profits”

“Low-Risk = High Profits”
Financial fraud is considered a “low-risk” crime because older victims are less likely to report the crime and is also hard to prosecute. Even if an elderly person files a suit, he may not live long enough to see the trial through. In other instances, proving financial abuse may be complicated and difficult to prove. While the risk of getting “caught” is relatively low compared to other crimes, the profits are high, depending on the wealth and number of victims.

Laws Against Financial Exploitation
Cases against perpetrators can be filed in both civil and criminal courts. Victims can use civil litigation to end the abusive action and to recover stolen or misappropriated funds. Victims can also seek restraining orders or having power of attorney revoked through the civil justice system. California currently has a law called, “Elder and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act,” which allows a civil case to continue after a victim has expired. Prosecutors use criminal courts to protect society from the perpetrators. Investigators in these cases will sometimes freeze assets to prevent further exploitation.

Prevention as a Tool
In the fight against financial fraud, we need to look at prevention as the most effective way to combat financial fraud; we cannot prosecute our way out of this problem. While older victims generally will not voluntarily report exploitation, they will usually admit the abuse if asked. Aging services and allied professionals can help by probing and educating the elderly on exploitation. Healthcare professionals are already trained to ask patients about spousal abuse; this line of defense against abuse can extend to include financial topics.

Reporting the Crime
This type of crime is often underreported. Either the elderly do not comprehend they are being financially exploited or they are too embarrassed to come forward, fearing they will look incompetent. Mickey Rooney is a prime example of how an older person can remain a victim for years as they suffer in silence.

Sep 06

The Crime of the 21st Century

Crime of 21st Century
Financial exploitation of older adults is becoming the crime of the 21st century.  The growing population of aging boomers along with exponential growth in technology is fueling this billion dollar industry. Since the beginning of 2011, financial fraud has exceeded $20 billion dollars, affecting many thousands of victims – and these statistics only reflect reported crimes.  The elderly represent a disproportionate percentage of the fraud victims.  During the next 15 years, 20% of the American population will be over 65 years old.  As the aging population accelerates, so will financial exploitation of the elderly.

Why are the elderly targeted?
Older adults are targeted because many have financial reserves (pension, house, savings) and may be vulnerable in many key areas: dementia, loneliness, maintaining independence, and lacking technological sophistication. For example, old age dementia may render the victim unable to handle simple financial matters, let alone being able to comprehend complicated investment vehicles.  In telemarketing scams, lonely elders are preyed on to buy products they don’t need in exchange for talking to “someone nice” on the other end. Many times older victims will not report the crime out fear they will appear as being incompetent, which may result in being placed in an assisted living facility.  According the Attorney General Eric Holder, 3 out of 4 (75%) of financial fraud victims over 55 years old will not report the crime.

Types of scams
Financial exploitation can take many forms.  The following are more commonly perpetrated against the elderly:

  • Healthcare and insurance fraud
  • Counterfeit prescription drugs
  • Funeral and cemetery scams
  • Fraudulent anti-aging products
  • Telemarketing, internet fraud
  • Investment scams
  • Reverse mortgage scams
  • Sweepstakes and lottery scams
  • The grandparent scam

Who are the perpetrators?
Surprisingly, financial exploitation of the elderly is not only perpetrated by scam artists, but more frequently by family members.  According the Metlife’s report “Broken Trust: Elders, Family, and Finances,” 55% of fiscal exploitation is committed by someone the victim knows: family member, caregiver, friend, or neighbor.  Economic instability has created financial hardships, and for some, a perfect justification for taking money from older family or friends.

My goal
My goal is to fight elder fraud.  These predatory practices have to stop.  Currently, financial exploitation of the elderly is “underreported, underrecognized, and underprosectuted.” This blog is to dialogue with others in an effort to create innovative solutions to stop elder fraud before it begins.  This is a social issue that needs to be addressed now!