Preying on Our Nation’s Seniors
Financial Fraud is the fastest growing form of elder abuse in the nation. Elder fraud, which is also known as elder financial exploitation or elder financial abuse, is the abuse of financial control or misappropriation of financial resources, resulting in harm to an elderly victim, usually in a relationship where the perpetrator is in a position of trust.
Elder financial abuse is tough to combat, in part because it often goes unreported. Many elderly victims are often too confused, fearful, embarrassed or even unaware that a crime has occurred, to report it. A recent Comparitech study found that while more than 200,000 elder fraud scams are reported to US authorities each year, resulting in an estimated $1.17 billion in damages, this is likely only a drop in the bucket compared to the true number of elder fraud victims.
Based on other findings reported by Consumers Digest, it is estimated that the real number of annual elder fraud cases in the US is closer to 5 million, but law enforcement or government officials only learn about 1 in 25 cases due to underreporting. The National Council on Aging estimates that the annual cost of elder financial abuse is more accurately up to $36.5 billion annually. These recent findings show that seniors are being disproportionately targeted as victims for fraud at a shockingly high rate. So why are seniors being targeted?
Common problems. Seniors share common concerns such as social security, health care coverage, retirement funds, medications, etc. These very real and significant concerns are shared by the senior population and widely known of by the general public making them an easy target to exploit.
Isolation. Many seniors are isolated from their friends and family members. Seniors have a more difficult time using technology to communicate with others and struggle to travel as they start to lose mobility. Scammers prey on these individuals, knowing that they have no one to discuss things with.
Diminished Capacity. Unfortunately, as we age it is not uncommon to experience some level of diminished capacity. With diminished capacity comes difficulty making sound decisions and recognizing when we are being taken advantage of.
The silver lining to all of this is that elder financial abuse is getting the attention it deserves and is being recognized as a real threat to our nation’s seniors’ financial and overall well-being. In an effort to combat elder fraud, Attorney General Barr recently announced the launch of a National Elder Fraud Hotline, which will provide services to seniors who may be victims of financial fraud. The Hotline will be staffed by experienced case managers who can provide personalized support to callers. These case managers will assist callers with reporting the suspected fraud to relevant agencies and by providing resources and referrals to other appropriate services as needed.
Reporting is the first step to understanding the magnitude of this problem and being able to address it effectively. If you think that you or someone you know may be a victim of elder fraud, call the Hotline’s toll free number at 833-FRAUD-11 (833-372-8311).
National Center on Elder Abuse www.ncea.aoa.gov
Ask Kit Kat: Leopard & Lioness Duo
Hook Law Center: Kit Kat, what can you tell us about the lioness mother who adopted a leopard cub in India?
Kit Kat: Well, this is a feel-good story that doesn’t happen very often. The two species usually don’t interact well, despite the fact that both are types of felines. This case was an exception. It happened at Gir National Park, in Gujurat, India. About a year ago, according to Dr. Stotra Chakrabarti, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Minnesota, a little 2-month old leopard cub wandered near the lioness mother, who already had 2 cubs. She took him in, and treated him like her own—grooming him and feeding him, just like her 2. Dr. Chakrabarti commented, “It looked like two big cubs and one tiny runt of the litter.” The scientists continued to observe the group to see if the relationship would continue. Continue it did for a month and a half. The fostering relationship only ended when the little leopard cub was found dead near a watering hole. He died of natural causes—he had a femoral hernia which most likely was present since birth.
This relationship was so unusual that Dr. Chakrabarti and his colleagues wrote about, and their article was published in late February (2020) in the journal Ecosphere. In seven years of study, he had never seen or heard about such an occurrence. One factor may have been that Asiatic lions such as these, in contrast to African lions, live in small groups with only their mothers while the cubs are young. Therefore, there would be no interference from a possibly threatening adult male.
There are only 2 other documented cases of interspecies adoption among wild animals—one in 2004 when some capuchin monkeys raised a baby marmoset. Another occurred in 2014 when some bottlenose dolphins took in a baby melon-headed whale. It just goes to show, nature is full of surprises! (Cara Giaimo, “The Leopard Cub With the Lioness Mom,” The New York Times, Feb 27, 2020)