Preying on the elderly is a common problem in every city in the United States, including in Las Vegas where predators often attack the most vulnerable members of society. In November 2015, Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson met the problem head-on in an effort to keep every elder Nevadan citizen safe by developing and implementing a new unit with a specific focus on elder abuse.
Fraud and theft cases are prevalent all across the United States, including in Nevada, where the elderly are taken advantage of and are often swindled of their much-needed minimal income. Abuse of the elderly is expected to grow exponentially in the decades ahead as the population of elderly individuals continues to grow because more and more baby boomers are retiring every day.
In addition to physical and mental abuse, many elderly individuals are victims of financial abuse where predators defraud senior citizens through social engineering tactics by exploiting their family relationships, age and vulnerabilities.
However, prosecuting cases of elder abuse are often challenging. Many victims suffer with serious physical conditions and diminished mental capacity and are often intimidated by individuals around them. In coordination with police officers, many prosecutors have become specially trained in handling cases involving elder abuse as are elder advocacy organizations and adult protection departments within law enforcement agencies. Often times, victim organizations work in coordination with other protection departments to ensure that specific cases are successfully prosecuted.
Common Signs of Elder Abuse
Relatives and friends are often oblivious to not so obvious common signs of elder abuse when a loved one is harmed mentally, emotionally, physically or financially. Common signs of financial abuse could be obvious of a relative realizes that:
- The victim’s assets have been sold or transferred.
- The victim loses any access to their funds.
- Evidence exists indicating that an altercation has occurred such as broken belongings or furniture.
- Bills are unpaid even when adequate resources should be available.
- The victim show signs of injuries or bruises without a plausible explanation.
- Injuries or wounds do not heal or show no signs of treatment.
Common Scams against the Elderly
Financial predators use a variety of schemes and scams to take money or property away from the elderly. The most common scams perpetrated against the elderly include:
- Mail Fraud/Telemarketing – Unscrupulous telemarketers obtain approximately $40 billion every year from unsuspecting consumers of which four out of five victims tend to be 50 years and older. Many dishonest marketers phone victims to conduct lottery scams, credit card fraud or identity theft. These individuals also prey on seniors by selling them goods that are either worthless or never sent.
- Obtaining Unauthorized Access to the Victim’s Funds – Some scammers use love and affection as a motivation for gaining access to the victim’s bank accounts or real estate titles. These fraudulent “in love with the victim” suitors often disappear once they have obtained the goods.
- Excessive Spending – Many senior citizens are convinced by scammers that certain services or goods are required only to overcharge them or not deliver the product at all. Usually, these high-priced ticket items include safety alert devices and hearing aids.
- Fraud, Undue Influence or Coercion – Many elderly citizens can be easily duped through coercion, undue influence or fraudulent schemes that parts them with their property, real estate holdings and homes.
- Forging Legal Documents – Outright forgery is one of the easiest tactics for separating senior citizens with their money and property. Scammers are usually able to hide their fraudulent scheme using legal authority by becoming an executor of the will or obtaining power of attorney over the senior citizen.
Relatives and friends with elderly loved ones must recognize the seriousness of crimes involving abuse against seniors. Recognizing that a scam is occurring is not always simple. However, looking for obvious warning signs can help family members ensure that their loved one does not become a victim.
Anyone can report suspicion of elder abuse to law enforcement agencies including their local sheriff and police departments. Now that many communities are focusing crimes that involve older adults, the specialized units can take quick action in prosecuting crimes perpetrated against senior citizens.
For laws related to Nevada nursing homes, look here.