Senior News from July, 2006
Senior Citizens Ripped Off by Caregivers
Increasingly, professional caregivers to the elderly are being accused of committing crimes against their patients. Prosecutor Joanne Woodruff, head of the district attorney’s elder fraud division in San Antonio, TX, says she is seeing more and more cases in which caregivers are charged with defrauding an elderly patient. She says, “about 20 percent of the defendants on her caseload” are workers from home health care agencies, nursing homes, or assisted living facilities.
Health care workers are no more likely to commit a crime against the elderly than anyone else, but senior citizens should always be cautious about who they deal with. Brian K. Payne, director of the Center for Family Violence Education and Research at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA, says, “I do think there is an increase in home health caregivers victimizing the elderly because the reliance of that type of care is increasing.” Senior citizens are encouraged to enquire with health care agencies to be sure they are insured, bonded, and that all employees have had criminal background checks.
Senior Summit Held in Washington, DC
History was made on July 17, 2006, with the first ever Senior Summit, delivered by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and attended by state and federal regulators from across the country. They met to discuss new ways to prevent investment fraud and to review a study by the NASD Investor Education Foundation that examined the techniques scammers use while talking with senior citizens. The report suggested that instead of educating senior citizens about investment, more effort should be spent teaching them the persuasion techniques employed by the scammers.
The summit verified that fraud is still an underreported crime because victims are often too embarrassed to admit they have been swindled. Some other important points discussed included the fact that most victims of investment fraud had recently experienced a negative life event, such as divorce or the loss of a job, and that the majority of investment fraud victims were, in fact, quite financially literate.
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Takes Action
This month, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has taken emergency action to stop a fraudulent real estate investment scheme that has bilked senior citizens out of millions of dollars since 1996. Filing charges against a small group of people in New York, the SEC is seeking to freeze their assets and return the stolen funds. “This case emphasizes the SEC’s commitment to protecting elderly investors and to holding accountable those who defraud senior citizens of their savings,” said Mark K. Schonfeld, Director of the Commission’s Northeast Regional Office.
The SEC also filed an action against an organization and individuals in California, alleging a Ponzi scheme (a form of pyramid scheme) that netted $16 million in fraudulent funds. This action, corresponding with the SEC Senior Summit in Washington, DC, served as a cease and desist order and will also attempt to return stolen funds to victims.
For more information, visit the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
State Law Allows Florida Residents to Freeze Credit
Floridians gained a powerful weapon in the fight against identity theft this month. Under a new law, every consumer in the state now has the power to freeze their credit report with the nation’s three credit-reporting agencies. This action would prevent any lender or third party from viewing their credit score, and in effect, make it impossible for anyone to apply for credit in their name.
In most states, there is a $10 charge from each of the credit reporting-agencies to enact or remove a credit freeze. But in Florida, senior citizens and victims of identity theft can utilize these services free of charge. Once the credit-reporting agencies receive a freeze request by certified mail, they have five days to put the credit freeze into effect. After that, the consumer will receive a personal identification number if they wish to remove the freeze eventually.