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Commerce Commissioner Hits the Road as Call-to-Action to Raise Awareness about Senior Financial Abuse

June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day enacted by the United Nations to stop senior abuse in every community

June 13, 2014


For Immediate Release

As part of the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s ongoing state-wide outreach effort  to protect senior citizens from financial fraud and abuse, Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman will spend today at Rochester Community Technical College to commemorate World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) by teaching the class “Preventing Elder Investment Fraud: Assessing for Vulnerability to Financial Exploitation.” Today’s presentation marks the fifteenth event in a statewide push to teach communities how to spot and report fraud and financial abuse within the elderly and vulnerable adult populations. WEAAD is an opportunity for individuals, organizations, and communities to come together as a call-to-action to raise awareness about senior financial abuse.

“Unfortunately, criminals prey on senior citizens and we know that Minnesota’s seniors are often the target of financial fraud – whether through fake lottery or investment scams – these crimes go unreported to loved ones at an alarming rate,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “Over the past three years, we have been able to build partnerships with health care professionals, social workers, CPAs, and financial institution employees to teach them how to identify the warning signs of financial fraud and ask their clients and customers important questions to stop and prevent financial exploitation.”

Age-related factors, illnesses, and cognitive impairment are factors that can make many older adults particularly vulnerable to investment fraud and financial exploitation. Senior citizens control nearly 70 percent of the nation’s wealth – and crooks know it, often making seniors a prime target for fraud.  WEAAD reports that every year an estimated 5 million, or 1 in 10, older Americans are victims of elder abuse and experts believe that for every case that is reported, as many as 23.5 go unreported.

An important goal of the Department of Commerce is the prevention of elderly abuse through increased educational and awareness efforts. Professions that work closely with senior citizens are key in the detection and prevention of elder abuse. 

POSSIBLE SIGNS OF FINANCIAL ABUSE OF OLDER ADULTS

  • Erratic or unusual financial transactions or change in financial patterns:
  • Frequent large withdrawals, including daily maximum cash withdrawals from ATM’s
  • Frequent non-sufficient fund activity, unusual for the account
  • Abnormal nonpayment for normal services, such as utilities and insurance, indicating a loss of funds or access to funds
  • Debit transactions that are not normal for an older adult
  • Uncharacteristic attempts to wire large sums of money
  • Closing of CDs or accounts without regard to penalties
  • A caregiver or other individual showing interest in the older adult’s finances or assets
  • An individual not allowing the older adult to speak for him/herself
  • A caregiver not willing to allow the older adult to have a conversation alone
  • The older adult shows unusual degree of fear or submissiveness toward a caregiver
  • The older adult expresses fear of eviction or nursing home placement if money is not given to the caretaker
  • The financial institution is unable to speak directly with the older adult, despite repeated attempts to contact the person
  • A new family member, caretaker, or friend suddenly begins conducting financial transactions on behalf of the older adult without proper documentation
  • The older adult abandons current relationship in exchange for new “friends”
  • A sudden change in the elder’s financial management, such as a new power of attorney or a new family member or individual, and
  • The older adult lacks knowledge about his/her financial status or shows a reluctance to discuss financial matters.

Commissioner Rothman stressed the importance of awareness and the steps that seniors can take to protect themselves. “One of the best lines of defense is prevention through education. Whether you are being solicited over the phone, through email, or someone knocking on your door, seniors must take steps to not be the next victim.”

HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF

Minnesota seniors are urged to be aware of the potential for elder financial abuse and to take the following steps to protect themselves from scams:

End the Call – There is no such thing as being rude when protecting yourself and your investments from scammers. If a solicitor makes you uncomfortable or is confusing, just hang up. Trust your instincts.

Phone a Friend - When Commissioner Rothman’s grandmother is called by a solicitor over the phone, the first thing she does is call Commissioner Rothman. You should identify a trusted friend or family member you can call for questions and advice.

Report the Fraud – The Minnesota Department of Commerce is here to help. Report the fraud so others don’t fall victim to the same scam. 

The Minnesota Department of Commerce Consumer Help Line can be reached by phone at (651) 539-1600 or (800) 657-3602. Complaints can also be sent by email to consumer.protection@state.mn.us or by mail to Minnesota Department of Commerce, 85 7th Place East, Suite 500, Saint Paul, MN 55101.