Elder abuse is a tragic and evolving problem in our state.
The Office of the Attorney General, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), the Prosecuting Attorneys Council of Georgia (PAC) and other stakeholders are working closely together to go after those who seek to perpetrate crimes against our at-risk adults. Sickeningly enough, approximately 90 percent of these offenses are committed by a family member, and, as you can imagine, they are particularly devastating in these situations.
As we continue to make it a priority to protect our state's most vulnerable citizens, we are urging the public to be on the lookout for signs of elder abuse in all its forms: physical, emotional and financial.
• Pushing, striking, slapping, pinching or beating
• Burning or scalding
• Hitting with a hand or instrument
• Rough handling
• Improper use of restraints or medications
• Intentional injuries such as bruising, burns, broken bones or pain
• Injuries not consistent with medical diagnosis or explanation
• Forcing someone to remain in a bed or chair
• Forcing someone to remain in a room (including locking them in)
• Threatening someone with violence, nursing home placement, abandonment or neglect
• Verbal abuse including: threats, insults, harassment, name calling or intimidating
• Isolating from friends, family or activities
• Ignoring or excessively criticizing
• Making derogatory or slanderous statements
• Repeatedly raising the issue of death
• Excluding the older person from decision making when he or she is capable and wants to be included
• Misuse of financial resources for another’s gain
• Missing money or valuables
• Credit card charges the individual did not make
• Unusual activity in bank accounts, depleted bank accounts
• Legal documents (such as will or power of attorney) signed by a person who does not understand what she/he is signing
• Checks/documents signed when person cannot write; signatures on checks that don’t resemble the person’s signature
• Eviction notice arrives when person thought s/he owned the house
• Unpaid bills (rent, utilities, taxes) when someone is supposed to be paying them for the person
What can you do?
We must continue the critical conversation about how to implement the best infrastructure possible to support our aging community. If we don’t, we open up the door for our at risk adults to be physically harmed, malnourished, deprived of medical treatment or completely conned out of their identities and benefit information.
The Office of the Attorney General, the GBI and PAC will not stand by and allow this behavior to continue, and we know the citizens of Georgia will join us to end the scourge of elder abuse.
If you believe someone you know is a victim of elder abuse, please use the following resources to report it immediately:
Georgia Department of Human Services:
Division of Aging HOTLINE - 1-866-55AGING
Division of Aging WEBSITE - aging.georgia.gov/report-elder-abuse
Georgia Bureau of Investigation:
Call: 9-1-1 or your local law enforcement agency
Georgia Prosecuting Attorneys Council:
Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council WEBSITE – www.pacga.org
Victim Witness Assistance Program Directory
Georgia’s Older Adults Cabinet
We also want to commend Governor Nathan Deal for creating the Georgia’s Older Adults Cabinet, a committee working to identify ways for Georgia to improve the well-being of its older residents by bringing together state agency heads, participants in the business community, philanthropies and educational institutions whose work supports older Georgians.
The Older Adults Cabinet is Co-chaired by First Lady Sandra Deal and Department of Human Services (DHS) Commissioner Robyn A. Crittenden. Under their leadership, we are confident that the Older Adults Cabinet will produce thoughtful recommendations and identify resources for our older adults.
Rise in Financial Crimes against Aging Adults
Financial scams targeting seniors have become so prevalent that they’re now considered “the crime of the 21st century.”
In Georgia, the number of financial exploitation cases seen by Adult Protective Services, and then referred to law enforcement has increased more than 115 percent since 2010.
We believe that educating our aging adults is critical in fighting this type of abuse. See detailed commentary regarding some of the types of crimes we are seeing below:
1. Health Care/Medicare/Health Insurance Fraud
Every U.S. citizen or permanent resident over age 65 qualifies for Medicare, so there is rarely any need for a scam artist to research what private health insurance company older people have in order to scam them out of their money.
In these types of scams, perpetrators may pose as a Medicare representative to get older people to give them their personal information, or they will provide bogus services for elderly people at makeshift mobile clinics, then use the personal information they provide to bill Medicare and pocket the money.
2. Counterfeit Prescription Drugs
Most commonly, counterfeit drug scams operate on the Internet, where seniors increasingly go to find better prices on specialized medications.
This scam is growing in popularity—since 2000, the FDA has investigated an average of 20 such cases per year, up from five a year in the 1990s.
The danger is that besides paying money for something that will not help a person’s medical condition, victims may purchase unsafe substances that can inflict even more harm. This scam can be as hard on the body as it is on the wallet.
3. Funeral & Cemetery Scams
The FBI warns about two types of funeral and cemetery fraud perpetrated on seniors.
In one approach, scammers read obituaries and call or attend the funeral service of a complete stranger to take advantage of the grieving widow or widower. Claiming the deceased had an outstanding debt with them; scammers will try to extort money from relatives to settle the fake debts.
Another tactic of disreputable funeral homes is to capitalize on family members’ unfamiliarity with the considerable cost of funeral services to add unnecessary charges to the bill.
In one common scam of this type, funeral directors will insist that a casket, usually one of the most expensive parts of funeral services, is necessary even when performing a direct cremation, which can be accomplished with a cardboard casket rather than an expensive display or burial casket.
Perhaps the most common scheme is when scammers use fake telemarketing calls to prey on older people, who as a group make twice as many purchases over the phone than the national average.
With no face-to-face interaction, and no paper trail, these scams are incredibly hard to trace. Also, once a successful deal has been made, the buyer’s name is then shared with similar schemers looking for easy targets, sometimes defrauding the same person repeatedly.
Examples of telemarketing fraud include:
“The Pigeon Drop”
The con artist tells the individual that he/she has found a large sum of money and is willing to split it if the person will make a “good faith” payment by withdrawing funds from his/her bank account. Often, a second con artist is involved, posing as a lawyer, banker, or some other trustworthy stranger.
“The Fake Accident Ploy”
The con artist gets the victim to wire or send money on the pretext that the person’s child or another relative is in the hospital and needs the money.
Money is solicited for fake charities. This often occurs after natural disasters.
5. Internet Fraud
While using the Internet is a great skill at any age, the slower speed of adoption among our aging population makes them easier targets for automated Internet scams that are ubiquitous on the web and email programs.
6. Investment Schemes
Because many seniors find themselves planning for retirement and managing their savings once they finish working, a number of investment schemes have been targeted at seniors looking to safeguard their cash for their later years.
7. Sweepstakes & Lottery Scams
This simple scam is one that many are familiar with, and it capitalizes on the notion that “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.”
Here, scammers inform their mark that they have won a lottery or sweepstakes of some kind and need to make some sort of payment to unlock the supposed prize. Often, seniors will be sent a check that they can deposit in their bank account, knowing that while it shows up in their account immediately, it will take a few days before the (fake) check is rejected.
During that time, the criminals will quickly collect money for supposed fees or taxes on the prize, which they pocket while the victim has the “prize money” removed from his or her account as soon as the check bounces.
8. The Grandparent Scam
The Grandparent Scam is so simple and so devious, because it uses one of older adults’ most reliable assets, their hearts.
Scammers will place a call to an older person and when the mark picks up, they will say something along the lines of: “Hi Grandma, do you know who this is?” When the unsuspecting grandparent guesses the name of the grandchild the scammer most sounds like, the scammer has established a fake identity without having done a lick of background research.
Once “in,” the fake grandchild will usually ask for money to solve some unexpected financial problem (overdue rent, payment for car repairs, etc.), to be paid via a third party, which don’t always require identification to collect.
At the same time, the scam artist will beg the grandparent “please don’t tell my parents, they would kill me.”
While the sums from such a scam are likely to be in the hundreds, the very fact that no research is needed makes this a scam that can be perpetrated over and over at very little cost to the scammer.
9. Door-to-Door Sales Fraud
While door to door sales problems can impact any consumer, seniors are often at home during the day and susceptible to high pressure sales tactics.
Here are some potential “red flags” of a home improvement/door to door scams:
• Work is unsolicited, repairman goes door-to-door. He may show checks received from other neighbors as proof of his credibility.
• Business is not listed in the local phone directory and/or contractor refuses to give out his address.
• There is no written quote/contract.
• Contractor only accepts cash as payment.
• Contractor offers special introductory offers or a discount valid only for today.
• Contractor insists that you pay in full before all work has been completed.
• Small job expands into huge job, or additional problems are later “discovered”.
• High pressure sales tactics, scare tactics or threats.