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Preventing elder abuse: Financial exploitation on the rise

The council warned that isolation resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic is making older residents more vulnerable to abuse - especially financial exploitation.

PENNSYLVANIA, USA — According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, each year, 1 in 10 older Americans are victims of abuse, neglect and exploitation. 

Today the Pa. Advisory Council on Elder Justice in the Courts, along with its elder justice partners, held a virtual town hall discussion on the troubling rise of elder abuse and financial exploitation in our state. 

"It really is a true crisis here that has significant impact on all Pennsylvanian’s and people all around the world," moderator Hon. Sheila Woods-Skipper, Orphans’ Court Division, Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, said today during the virtual meeting.

The Advisory Council warned that isolation resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic is making older residents more vulnerable to abuse - especially financial exploitation issues. 

Leah Finlayson, director of victim services with the SeniorLAW Center said she sees these kinds of financial issues regularly.

"What we’re seeing often is financial exploitation by family, friends, or caregivers – so reporting this to the police is really important."

The Advisory Council released a list of some of the most popular financial scams that commonly target the older population like: 

  • a lottery or sweepstakes scam
  • a "charity" soliciting money ( this happens most commonly after a natural disaster)
  • or a phone call scam involving a loved one in jail

Finlayson says for those elders who live on their own and aren't sure whether something is a scam or not - think twice before sending money - and reach out to trusted resources. 

"Never give out your financial information...make sure you’re looking at credit card statements and bank statements...and if you’re not sure if something is a scam – reach out to someone. Reach out to AAA, the Attorney General's office, or another legal provider to ask whether something is a scam."

She says there are some key clues to look for as well. 

"If someone is asking for immediate payment or if someone is asking for gift cards or wire payments – that’s usually a sign that it’s a scam.”

A second townhall focusing on elder abuse is scheduled for June 23, focusing on preventing and responding to financial exploitation. 

For further resources and to learn more about the various programs offered by the Pennsylvania Department of Aging, you can find them here

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