Friday, September 19, 2008

Civilian Police Academy - Seniors 2

Yesterday I mentioned that 86% of abuse comes from family members. It appalled me to learn how many seniors are impoverished by their own children who explain the importance of being able to help with finances, etc., and once they have access to the accounts, go on to take the money for themselves. Or… child #1 is a responsible caregiver and aide. But he has a sibling who sees him as 'favored' by the parent. Child #2 fears that child #1 will be the one to inherit. So, child #2 calls the authorities and tips them that child #1 is exploiting the poor, unsuspecting parents. Often, it works.

Today, more of a focus on scams.

Again, people's trusting natures are at the root of why most of these scams work. We heard the story of one woman who was self-sufficient, active, and volunteered 30 hours a week in her community. As I said yesterday, not a stereotypical addle-brained elderly woman. However, because she trusted three young ladies who approached her in the supermarket, she ended up being in fear for her life. Initially, after winning her confidence with 'icebreaking' chatter, they told her they had a lot of money in foreign currency, and they wanted to count it before taking it to the bank. She agreed to let one of them sit in the backseat of her car and count the cash. From there, she agreed to write them a check for some advance money. Her bank knew her and wouldn't cash the check for her, knowing she didn't have a lot of money in her account. (She had $4000). By now, these women had convinced her to try another bank. As things went downhill, our victim now found herself being driven all over town. Two men had joined the entourage. She ended up someplace where they did cash her check, which was for $6000. She lost everything.

Another consideration: in addition to losing money, when she couldn't pay her bills, her electricity was shut off and all the rest of the nightmares that go along with not having any money. She developed "curable dementia" which is a dementia triggered by things such as dehydration, improper medications, poor nutrition, stress, etc. So now, she's got competency issues as well.

Side note—personal experience on the dementia: my 90 year-old mother-in-law recently fell and broke her wrist. The fall was due to breaks in her spine, which meant her back wasn't supporting her properly. This woman lived in a 3rd floor walkup, did crossword puzzles in ink, and was very much in charge of her faculties. However, she ended up in a rehab center, on strong pain meds, with bladder and bowel infections, and although nobody was exploiting her, the hospital staff insisted that because she was 90, her deteriorating mental state wasn't unusual. It took a lot of insisting, and a lot of patience, but about 4 months later, she's living in an assisted living center, back to her old self, and complaining about the 103 year old woman at her lunch table who's 'deaf as a post'.

Another popular scam right now: Jury Duty. You get a phone call from someone identifying herself as the clerk of the courts. You've missed jury duty and there's a severe penalty for that. You claim you never got a notice. The "clerk" says, "Let's clear this up, because if there's an error, we certainly don't want to bother you. Give me your Social Security Number so I can verify we have the right Mary Jones." After the victim does that, the clerk then offers to take care of the fine right then and now over the phone. "All I need is your credit card number, and it'll all be fine." Good-bye identity.

Or, people want to get into your house. A couple of scams for that. Nice woman rings the doorbell with a 3 year old in tow. She's been looking for an address for the last half hour, and can't find it, and her daughter really needs to use the bathroom. The victim escorts the pair to the bathroom. The child knows to stay in the bathroom until Mom comes back. Meanwhile, Mom has gone through enough of the house and taken valuables.

Another: Official looking people say they have to spray the yard for bugs, or to mark utility lines, etc. They don't want to simply show up in the yard, even though they're permitted to do so, so why don't you escort us. The victim does, and the scammers are busy spraying liquid back and forth. "Ooops. We got some on you. We're so sorry. Quick, let's go inside and wash this off, because it's dangerous." They're in your house. One offers the first aid, and while you're worrying about what the chemical might be doing to you, the other is helping himself to your stuff. Often, these folks have backup in the car who help them collect their booty.

Do yourself and those you care about a favor and check the FBI website.

Other "facts" from Wednesday's class. It takes 3 full time employees to process all the paperwork involved in one person's Social Security benefits. What happens as the segment of our population eligible for SS outnumbers those in the workforce by about 3 to 1? The nation is getting older. Who's going to run it?

If someone throws a spark plug at your car window, the glass goes both inward and outward. Didn't know that. Watch out for people kicking tires in parking lots. They're testing for car alarms.

In our area, the patrol deputies, who are usually in their 20's, are being trained on how to recognize typical behavior pattens of seniors who may have wandered off, and to spot senior abuse. At the moment, those who investigate child abuse also investigate senior abuse.

On Monday, I'll share some ways to protect yourself.


Katie Reus said...

Great tips! I'm so careful when people come to our door. I pull back the blind and ask what they want, but never ever open the door, even in broad daylight. (Most times I just ignore the bell b/c if I didn't invite them over, most likely I don't want to see them, lol)

Terry Odell said...

I'm still very trusting. I can't lie, so I figure nobody else does. I occasionally duck a doorbell--we're on an out of the way street, so it's not a place people find easily -- because 90% of the time, it's someone trying to sell something. Or convert me.

However, I'm not at the point that one of the members of the Academy class is -- he said he never answers the door without his gun.

jean hart stewart said...

Wow, I thought I was careful but there's some great stuff here I didn't know. You did a good deed today, Terry, Jean

Terry Odell said...

Glad you're finding it useful, Jean. Keep checking back. I've got more information to post.

Anonymous said...

Terry, interesting blog, very useful info. We all need to be more aware of what goes on around us.

The Scarlet Pumpernickel