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Is Elder Abuse the Next Big Crime Wave?

Doctor with patientAbout 400 social workers, law enforcers, lawyers, nursing home workers, and others who work with vulnerable adults gathered recently at the University of Minnesota to discuss what some think could be the next big crime wave: elder abuse.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported in “Minnesota elder abuse reports increasing” that the conference, hosted by the Minnesota Elder Justice Center, was one of many nationwide marking World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The recognition began in 2006 and is intended to raise awareness of financial crimes and other abuses targeting older people.
One Anoka County prosecutor commented that more tips are coming from financial institutions and nursing homes. These tips cover a wide variety of concerns, including possible financial exploitation and medication thefts. Elderly victims often are reticent to report the crimes because they’re embarrassed and don't want to be perceived as being vulnerable.
One assistant Hennepin County prosecutor said that crimes against the elderly are "doubling year-over-year." Yet, there are only two attorneys assigned to work full time on crimes against the elderly in this county. The most common crimes involve financial exploitation by family members and abuse by professionals.
An assistant Carver County attorney said his office is preparing for "a tsunami of financial exploitation" crimes that prey on older people. He noted that prosecutions can be avoided in some instances by asking a suspected abuser to a meeting with adult protection maltreatment investigators to discuss the penalties for elder exploitation.
Ashton Applewhite, an author and activist, remarked in her keynote speech, "We aspire to grow old, and yet we dread the prospect. We are all old people in training."
Reference: Minneapolis Star Tribune (June 20, 2016) “Minnesota elder abuse reports increasing”

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Don’t Get Caught in a Scam

WarningscamFinancial scammers who target elderly or vulnerable Minnesotans would face stiffer penalties under a law Gov. Mark Dayton included in his two-year budget proposal. The proposed law would tack on an additional $10,000 fine for consumer fraud crimes committed against vulnerable or older adults. That group could expand beyond seniors, but officials haven't yet decided on specifics.

Seniors make up about one-fifth of financial abuse victims nationwide. This is according to Minnesota’s Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman, as reported in a recent Minneapolis Star Tribune article titled Dayton wants new financial protection law for elderly, vulnerable to protect from scams.They make for tempting targets of scammers: old age often means reduced cognitive abilities, creating easy marks for these schemes.

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has proposed a plan that would add a $1 fee to insurers for every life insurance or annuity product they sell, which would help hire outreach employees, a senior ombudsman, and an investigator.

About 13 percent of Minnesotans were 65 or older in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and like many other parts of the country, that senior population is expected to increase greatly in the next ten years.

With the growing population of seniors, the Star Tribune reports that this group constituted more than 50% of the victims in the financial exploitation reports to the state's Adult Protective Services office last year—and that number is growing.

Elderly people can fall victim to scams from strangers, friends or family members, and they don't always report when a crime occurs. They can be afraid and embarrassed. But they shouldn’t be.  Contact an experienced elder law attorney for answers and to make sure that you and your love ones are protected from scammers.

For more information about estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.

Reference: Star Tribune (January 29, 2015) “Dayton wants new financial protection law for

elderly, vulnerable to protect from scams”

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